March 31, 2006

Shorts, 3/31.

Regular Lovers "No political columnist on either side of the Channel - or the Atlantic - has resisted the comparison between France's current waves of strikes, violence and demonstrations and those that rocked the country back in May 1968," writes Sheila Johnston in the Telegraph. And yet, she continues, few French films have addressed that tumultuous summer. Now, "only 38 years after the événements, a new film on the subject will open here this summer. Philippe Garrel's Regular Lovers was conceived as a response, and riposte, to [Bertolucci's] The Dreamers."

Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader: "Almost 30 years have passed since I wrote a heated article about French filmmaker Luc Moullet for Film Comment - the first extended defense of his movies and his film criticism in English. But the first American retrospective devoted to him is only now opening, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Only 8 of his 32 films will be included, and some of my favorites are missing. Still, it's been worth the wait."

Also: "For a philosopher who believes the capitalist system makes enjoyment impossible, he sure is hilarious" is a more than adequate subheading for James Westcott's review Zizek!, though this phrase is especially nice as well: "the insidiousness of liberal capitalist ideology - an ideology that pretends it isn't one."

What to see at the San Francisco International Film Festival? B Ruby Rich explains her selections at SF360.

Antonio Weinrichter in Screen Daily: "Devoid of the camp ebullience and colourful subplots one expects from an Almodóvar film, Volver nevertheless achieves moments of deep dramatic intensity as a well-observed study of a small group of characters."

The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short Acquarello delves into Belgium's biculturalism and André Delvaux's "elegant and quietly devastating first film," The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short.

Michael Wood praises L'Enfant and bashes Caché in the London Review of Books.

"The link between Eyes Wide Shut and Caché (Hidden) is, to me, crystal clear," asserts David Poland. Also, the latest blog in the Movie City News network: Digital Dretzka.

"Drawn to visions of windblown flags, both Battle in Heaven and Claire Denis's latest film, The Intruder, set their unsparing sights on the final pilgrimages of doomed protagonists," writes Johnny Ray Huston. "But whereas [Carlos] Reygadas's movie reveals the cruelty that upholds nationalist pride and prejudice, Denis explores the equally murderous crannies of a fractured colonialist psyche." Related: Susan Gerhard talks with Reygadas for SF360.

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey: "Anchored by [Andreas] Wilson's credibly slow-burning performance, Evil (which took three years to get here, despite its 2004 Oscar nomination) is so good it's almost on par with all-time-great Boarding School Hell movies like Another Country, Young Torless, and The Devil's Playground."

ATL And Huston talks briefly with Clifford "TI" Harris Jr about his new movie, ATL, and new album, King. More from Pete L'Official in the Voice, Scott Tobias in the AV Club, Martha Fischer at Cinematical, Neil Genzlinger in the NYT and MaryAnn Johanson.

More at or via Cinematical:

"Wu Hao, a Beijing-based documentary filmmaker, has been in police custody in the capital since Feb 22," reports Audra Ang for the AP. There's a tremendous amount of online activity surrounding this case, which you can follow at Free Hao Wu.

Signandsight translates former East German dissident Wolf Biermann's piece for Die Welt on Das Leben der Anderen (The Life of Others: "This debut film makes me suspect that the truly deep-reaching confrontation with Germany's second dictatorship is only just beginning."

Cuore Sacro Bruno Ganz and Theo Angelopoulos will be working together again, reports Boyd van Hoeij, who also reviews Cuore sacro (Sacred Heart), "the fifth and by far best film of Italo-Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek."

J Hoberman: "Part Pentateuch, part Animal Farm, Iron Island is closer to Makhmalbaf faux naïveté than Kiarostami modernism. Depending on one's mood, the movie might seem boldly simplified and poetic—or boringly simpleminded and prosaic. Either way, Iron Island poses the question that was always asked of movies produced behind the Iron Curtain and later in China: How was it shown at home and what does it mean there?"

Also in the Voice, "Tracking Shots": Michael Atkinson on Iowa (more from Laura Kern in the NYT) and Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy, Rob Nelson on Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (more from Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT and Andy Klein in the LA CityBeat), R Emmet Sweeney on Oscar-nominated shorts (more from Neil Genzlinger in the NYT) and Melissa Levine on Adam and Steve (more from Stephen Holden in the NYT; and a backgrounder from Gregg Goldstein in the Hollywood Reporter).

Busby Berkeley Collection Just out on DVD: the Busby Berkeley Collection and a re-release of Triumph of the Will. Dave Kehr: "The coincidence is too suggestive to ignore." As it happens, J Hoberman also name-drops Berkeley in his review of Yang Ban Xi: The 8 Model Works for the Voice. As Manohla Dargis describes the doc, "[D]irector Yan-Ting Yuen revisits the country's recent past to explore the history and legacy of one of the strangest byproducts of totalitarian madness: the revolutionary spectacular." More from Steve Erickson at Gay City News.

But also in the New York Times:

By the way, the New York Times has nominated Manohla Dargis for a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Sara James reports for Women's Wear Daily; Anne Thompson comments: "Manohla Dargis is one of the best film critics writing today... No namby pamby she. Which is why so many PR people are afraid of her."

Werner Herzog Seth Studer's overview of the films of Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick at Bandoppler 3.0. Via Jason Morehead.

Gavin Esler tracks down a few leading figures in "the new generation of Argentine directors who are beginning to be recognised as producing some of the most creative films anywhere in the world": Ariel Winograd, Daniel Burman and Fabian Bielinsky. Commentary: Anthony Kaufman.

Also in the Independent: Chris Sullivan talks with Denzel Washington about Inside Man and this and that - "I got my method and it's not based on Stanislavski; I just get it from wherever I can get it from, what I feel, what I see." Stephen Applebaum talks with Rebecca Miller about The Ballad of Jack and Rose and Elaine Lipworth talks with Kristin Davis about life since Sex and the City.

Burton on Burton The Guardian runs an extract from Burton on Burton in which Johnny Depp writes about his long friendship and working partnership with the director: "For me, working with Tim is like going home. It is a house made of risk, but in that risk, there is comfort. Great comfort.... The only elements that keep me sane are my knowledge of his trust, my love for him, and my profound and eternal trust in him, coinciding with my hefty yearning to never disappoint him."

Also:

Which leads us to today's Jason Reitman/Thank You for Smoking pieces; Darcie Stevens in the Austin Chronicle and, in the Stranger, Annie Wagner, who also talks with Iraq in Fragments director James Longley. Don't know why I haven't mentioned yet that Reitman is blogging.

V for Vendetta A roundtable discussion on V for Vendetta at the November 3rd Club: Film critic and playwright Brian Dauth, Club editor Victor D Infante, performance artist and film critic Matt Cornell, Libertarian Party co-founder Dave Nolan and PopCultureShock senior comics editor Guy LeCharles Gonzalez.

Antonio Pasolini writes in Kamera on the "devastatingly moving experience" of Jean-Pierre Melville's L'Armée des ombres (Army in the Shadows).

Ian Johnston at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "Bergman enthusiast and Criterion Collection regular Peter Cowie (for once, not providing the commentary on this Criterion DVD) calls The Virgin Spring 'one of the highest peaks in the Bergman range.' He couldn't be more wrong."

Sunrise John Adair: "Sunrise is considered by many to be one of the greatest silent films of all time. Take out the word 'silent' from that last sentence, and you get a more accurate picture of my own feeling on the matter."

Craig Phillips on The Best of Youth: "Ultimately, it's one of the most beautiful and truly moving experiences I've ever had watching a film."

MS Smith, among the Cinemarati: "In many ways, the experience of Ugetsu is one of visual and cultural immersion."

At Twitch, X, who's just updated the Korean Film Databank, translates excerpts from Cine21's interview with Im Kwon-taek in which he talks about the troubles he's been having realizing his next film.

HanCinema briefly mentions that Park Chan-wook has begun shooting I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK with singer and "heartthrob" Bi, also known as Rain. At Twitch, Todd's found the teaser poster.

Darcy Paquet reviews Min Kyu-dong's All for Love at Koreanfilm.org: "[O]n the whole, this film is a winner, for its narrative strength and its large cast of memorable characters."

Fearless Grady Hendrix: Fearless is one of those movies with a limp. Technically it can't be beat.... But the downside of early 90s Hong Kong cinema is apparent in Fearless as well."

Is a "new" Bollywood really a good idea? David Chute points to a discussion at Naachgaana.com. Commentary: Grady Hendrix.

Back in the NYP, Matt Zoller Seitz on Ice Age: The Meltdown: "This is not just a decent sequel, it’s a cartoon animal comedy about fear of annihilation; in essence, War of the Worlds for kids." More from a less enthusiastic Tasha Robinson for the AV Club and from Jeannette Catsoulis in the NYT.

Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman: "In these enlightened times, then, let us end discrimination against those films which are disadvantaged in the area of length: the temporally challenged, if you like."

Tim Robey argues that John Williams is "both over- and under-rated."

Lance Mannion wraps his in-depth look at Chris Hansen's The Proper Care and Feeding of an American Messiah.

"[T]he situation at most nonprofit media arts centers has never been more dire," writes Brian Newman, executive director of National Video Resources (he also writes an excellent blog, SpringBoardMedia). Also in indieWIRE, Jonny Leahan presents an overview of the current deluge of docs on the war in Iraq.

The Cinecultist wishes her apartment's movie theme decor were as "freakin' cool" as Martin Scorsese's.

"San Francisco got majorly spanked by South Park," notes Joe Brown at the Chronicle's Culture Blog!

Haven't voted yet in Edward Copeland's worst of the bests poll? You have until midnight.

Steve Buscemi Josh Horowitz chats with Steve Buscemi.

Sharon Stone? "Somebody stop her," pleads the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro. "Please." Via Ray Pride at Movie City Indie.

"Some filmmakers go DIY route to DVD" is the title Gregg Goldstein's piece in the Hollywood Reporter; if only we could read the whole thing, though, as Scott Macaulay points out at Filmmaker, another article in the series, "Alternative output gains steam in indie scene," is available. And we can read John Gaudiosi's story on Roger Avary's screenplay for Christophe Gans's Silent Hill, based on the game.

YouTube is the "Talk of Tinseltown," reports Greg Sandoval for CNET.

Online listening tip. Bill & Ted's Excellent Musical Adventure. Via Waxy.

The Electric Company Online viewing tip #1. Wiley Wiggins passes along some "Amazing 70s Signage" from The Electric Company.

Online viewing tip #2. Music For Your Eyes, via WmMBerger at WFMU's Beware of the Blog: "There's Punk, Post-Punk, Folk, Brit-Folk, Krautrock, Tropicalia, Psychedelia and lots more to warm a music lover's heart." Related, and online viewing tip #3: Flickhead gives us The Who.

Online viewing tip #3. The Rolling Stones record a Rice Krispies commercial. In 1964. Via Fimoculous.

Online viewing tip #4. Caveh Zahedi's I Am a Sex Addict vlog.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:48 AM

The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

"As its title suggests, the picture is something of a ballad, an ode to an elusive character who's both quintessentially human and so outlandish he almost seems unreal," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.

Discovered Covered "Jeff Feuerzeig's tremendous documentary runs on the motive force of intelligent fandom and radiates an ineffable grace," writes Jessica Winter in the Voice, where Ken Switzer offers a brief take on the double CD, The Late, Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered.

"Then, if you're lucky, one dry run of the song. It's done, and then he's onto the next song," Feuerzeig tells Steven Chen in a Los Angeles Alternative cover story. "I've heard all the outtakes - we're talking thousands of songs - and I've understood how his process is. And I've seen the notebooks. It goes right down, verse for verse, line for line. He doesn't edit and change lines. I've seen this, okay? That's how I know he's a genius, whether you like the music or not. Pages and pages, stacks of notebooks, and they go down, And very rarely do you see a little cross-out of a line or a word."

Updated through 4/3.

Greg Burk in the LA Weekly: "You'll be glad to know that primitive-savant songwriter and visual artist Johnston, admired by such cultural godheads as Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth and Matt Groening, is more troubled than most. More important, his story opens a window on the nature of art and the power of myth."

"And make no mistake," adds The Reeler, "Director Jeff Feuerzeig's exquisite portrait of Johnston absolutely addresses a great mind."

Continued Story "Like its subject, The Devil and Daniel Johnston never says or does quite what you expect," writes Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press. "What makes the documentary so striking - what elevates it above most biographies of artists, sane or not - is its willingness to engage with Johnston head-on; it tries to visualize the world through Johnston's consciousness."

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "Devil turns out to be too indulgent and worshipful a film to justify its length."

But in the New York Times, Dana Stevens calls it "a moving portrait of the artist as his own ghost."

Reminder: Sara Schieron in Slant.

Update, 4/2: Sean O'Hagan in the Observer: "Somewhere... during Feuerzeig's exhaustive film, it becomes hard to hear those songs, so overwhelming is the life from which they spring."

Updates, 4/3:: Sorina Diaconescu talks with Jeff Feuerzeig for the Los Angeles Times.

Lawrence Levi at Stop Smiling: "I went to a Johnston concert in 1999 and saw a bloated, confused-looking man racing through songs, seemingly unaware of the audience or his own backup band. Like this movie, it was heartbreaking."

Michael Fox interviews Feuerzeig and producer Henry Rosenthal for SF360.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:42 AM

Nerve. The Film Issue. Update.

Time for a Nerve Film Issue update (first entry):

The Notorious Bettie Page

Posted by dwhudson at 6:30 AM

March 30, 2006

Fests and events, 3/30.

Philadelphia City Paper The Philadelphia Film Festival opens today and runs through April 11, and both the Philadelphia City Paper and the Philadelphia Weekly are running big preview packages, collections of quick takes on dozens of films. Sam Adams introduces the City Pages' heftier guide and schedule, noting, "if you have to hire a sitter, board the dog, or cancel dinner at Django to see The Sun or The Death of Mr Lazarescu, do it." Funny he should say, because this is precisely the pair Matt Prigge chooses to write up in the Weekly. Prigge also goes for two docs, This Film is Not Yet Rated and Fuck.

The Guardian's Guy Dammann praises the addition of a section devoted to Westerns in the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival: "For what better symphonies of sublimated homoerotic fantasy do we have, if we think about it, than such films whose emotional landscape centres on the sexually-charged atmosphere of gunmen strutting before a draw, or the bristling, theatrical self-confidence of the stranger's entry to the small-town saloon to be mercilessly, cattily sized up by the company at large."

COLCOA 06 City of Lights, City of Angels (April 3 through 7) "has evolved from an ambitious experiment in cultural exchange into an invaluable survey of the margins and mainstream of le cinema français," writes Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly. Also: Ernest Hardy on Method Fest (tomorrow through April 7) and Holly Willis on Barbara Hammer's Love Other, screening April 3 at Redcat.

For the New York Times, Manohla Dargis is keeping up with the New Directors/New Films series (through Sunday), blurbing Pavee Lackeen, First on the Moon and Into Great Silence; plus Stephen Holden on Texas.

Related: Nick Schager gives The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros a B+.

More from Howard Feinstein at indieWIRE: "It's a truisim that a creative, provocative surge in the arts accompanies national crises. Look at the 'waves' that have emerged over the past 20 years in such countries as Argentina, China, Iran, and Mexico. Given that a significant majority of American independent films in recent years do not make the heart race, the unusually strong showing of US movies in the 35th edition of New Directors/New Films - a showcase of first- and second-time feature filmmakers which began March 22 and runs through April 2 - is evidence of the societal rupture that's been building since a certain president took over."

Also, Tamara Schweitzer previews the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (April 6 through 9).

This Side of the River "Those attending next week's Full Frame Festival will have an opportunity to see the first documentaries to emerge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. However, there is a locally produced documentary that, although not in Full Frame, is shedding important light on a disastrous hurricane much closer to home." David Fellerath in the Independent Weekly on This Side of the River, which actually screened last night as part of the African Diaspora Film Festival.

Jack Silverman, Jim Ridley and Noel Murray preview the Nashville International Black Film Festival (April 4 through 8) for the Nashville Scene, where, by odd coincidence, Murray reviews Manderlay.

The Vail Film Festival, featuring the world premiere of 10 MPH, opens today and runs through Sunday.

Brian Darr picks out several films he's looking forward to catching at the San Francisco International Film Festival (April 20 through May 4). More from Jeffrey M Anderson at Mindjack and Susan Gerhard at SF360, where Dennis Harvey offers an overview of the Noise Pop Film Festival (through Sunday).

The 8th Women's Film Festival in Seoul: April 6 through 14.

United 93 opens the Tribeca Film Festival on April 25.

Chema Rodriguez's Estrellas de la Linea (The Railroad All-Stars), a "documentary about Guatemalan prostitutes who form a soccer team for dignity and respect will open the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on April 28," notes Etan Vlessing in the Hollywood Reporter.

Hummingbird Aerodynamics of the Hovering Hummingbird: Science, Cinema, and Ways of Seeing, curated by Jennifer MacMillan and Bradley Eros, at the Millennium Film Workshop in NYC on April 29.

In Kamera, Elke de Wit looks back to the German films at this year's Berlinale: "Often those films that seem to be very popular with German audiences are the ones that I don't think will travel very well and vice versa."

Meanwhile, Sujewa Ekanayake has put forward two questions for filmmakers and festival organizers. In short: Should fests share some of the income from ticket sales with filmmaker? And: Do any already? Comments are coming in.

Posted by dwhudson at 2:41 PM

Books, 3/30.

Salon's Laura Miller faults the Library of America's collection, American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now - and rightly so - for not running the dates and original venues right along the entries, but even so: "One surprising revelation is that every argument that has ever raged among film lovers - technique vs content, the purely 'cinematic' vs the 'literary,' American vs foreign films, etc. - has been with us from Day One, which in this case is the 1920s. Of course the biggest, oldest and fiercest battle in all quarters of American culture is highbrow vs lowbrow, and film criticism has been the place where those hostilities have raged with the highest of dudgeon."

Conversations With the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood's Golden Age at the American Film Institute Spencer Parsons in the Austin Chronicle on Conversations With the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood's Golden Age at the American Film Institute: "George Stevens Jr's excellent collection of master classes with some of old Hollywood's greatest directors, writers, producers, and cinematographers (not to mention guest stars Jean Renoir, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and Satyajit Ray) ably fills out the bonus discs in that ideal Criterion Collection of the mind, with everything from James Wong Howe's reminiscence of fights with the Technicolor lab over low-light photography to Fritz Lang's idiosyncratically sweet take on Deep Throat as 'a crime against youth' (young people should discover oral sex with each other, he persuasively argues, rather than 'see it for the first time in a motion picture and say, "Oh, let's try that"')."

The Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos is "beautifully designed" and the first book devoted to the work of "the Michelangelo of the Macabre," writes Tim Lucas.

Andy Warhol Having read The Film Snob's Dictionary, "a smart, funny, opinionated take on movie mania," Vince Keenan offers a review and an online listening tip.

Alistair Macaulay on Olivier: "Fortunately for us, [Terry] Coleman admires his subject and doesn’t need to deify him." Also in the Times Literary Supplement (and only somewhat film-related, but the weekend's just around the corner, so here you go), David Schiff on Robin Maconie's Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Richard Calvocoressi on Margarita Cappock's Francis Bacon's Studio, Hal Jensen on John Fowles's The Journals, Volume Two and David Coward on Daniel Karlin's Proust's English.

Kim Ki-duk, a new monograph in French and English.

Catherine Taft finds the party celebrating the publication of Broken Screen: Expanding the Image, Breaking the Narrative and files an entry in Artforum's diary.

Michael Palin's Himalaya is to become required reading in British schools, the AP reports.

Updates, 3/31: In the Telegraph, Hugh Davies tells some of the hottest stories from Lee Server's Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing.

Online browsing tip. "Photographs by the well known (David McCabe, Cecil Beaton, Weegee, Warhol himself) and unknown, along with short texts, track the evolution of Andy Warhola, Pittsburgh art student, into Andy Warhol, world-famous icon." Mary Panzer introduces a selection from Andy Warhol "Giant" Size at Vanity Fair.

Online listening tip. Phillip Lopate will be a guest on the Leonard Lopate Show today (if you miss it, you can download the podcast later).

Posted by dwhudson at 2:06 PM | Comments (2)

Brick.

Kristi Mitsuda: "Maybe it says more about the state of American cinema than my own viewing habits, but I can't remember the last time I saw a movie as purely and perfectly entertaining as Rian Johnson's Sundance prize-winning debut feature, Brick." James Crawford agrees somewhat; Nicholas Rapold not at all. Another round at indieWIRE from Reverse Shot.

Brick Michael Atkinson in the Voice: "Hammett redone remains Hammett half done, but while the plates are in the air, it's a spectacle of nerve."

Scott Foundas in the LA Weekly: "[W]hat makes the film more than a mere act of homage (unlike Wim Wenders's misbegotten Hammett) is how Johnson finds in the world of noir - with its brutes and bombshells, confidences traded on scraps of notepaper and allegiances that shift on a dime - a ready metaphor for high-school life as it feels from the inside, rather than how we usually see it in movies, which is to say filtered back through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia."

Scott Tobias for the AV Club: "It's one of those films that needs to be seen several times to sort out all the intricacies of speech and plotting, but it makes that prospect inviting."

Updated through 4/7.

Armond White: "She's the Man may be hokey, but Brick is asinine." Also in the New York Press, Jennifer Merin talks with Johnson; so, too, do Salon's Andrew O'Hehir and, for Suicide Girls, Daniel Robert Epstein.

Cinematical's James Rocchi talks with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Reminders: Ed Gonzalez at Slant, Sarah Hughes in the Observer and Charles McGrath in the New York Times and, talking to Johnson for MovieMaker, Lily Percy.

Updates, 3/31: Stephen Holden in the New York Times: "There is something cute, if not outright ludicrous, in the spectacle of dewy young actors striking the poses of hard-boiled demimondaines and desperadoes and failing utterly to make them come alive."

Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times: "It's rare to see a debut as witty and assured as this."

Steve Erickson at Gay City News: "You'd be better off renting either The Big Sleep or Fast Times At Ridgemont Highthan going to see this half-hearted mash-up."

Updates, 4/1: Cinematical's James Rocchi: "[T]his is Johnson's film, and it's one of the most accomplished writing-directing debuts in recent memory."

Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog: "What's remarkable about Brick, and what makes it so hugely enjoyable, is that in creating the film's weird world, Johnson has managed to free it from the chokehold of irony."

The Reeler: "[I]f Brick evolves as the cult stand-by I think it will become, we are basically talking about destabilizing myths for an entire generation. Does it confuse? Occasionally. Does it explain? Sort of. Does it apologize? Fuck no."

Jürgen Fauth: "[S]uddenly you realize that this stylized world isn't what being a teenager was like at all - but it's what it felt like."

Update, 4/5: Daniel Kasman: "The deaths and the pain and the kids do not really matter, in the beginning or in the end, and Brick ends up weightless."

Update, 4/7: Jason Guerrasio talks with Johnson for Filmmaker.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:51 PM | Comments (1)

Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That.

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir notes that Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That is "pretty much the state of the art in concert films," while The Reeler cranks it one notch higher: "[P]ossibly the greatest concert film ever made."

Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That In the Boston Phoenix, Chris Fujiwara reviews the film and has a long talk with Adam Yauch: "Were the results of the footage what Yauch had in mind? 'Very much so. I had seen this clip that somebody had shot on their camera phone and then had uploaded on our Web site, and I thought it looked really cool. That’s where I got the idea to document a concert this way. And definitely the footage we got gets that kind of feel, that kind of energy.'"

Kyle Ryan interviews all three Beasties for the AV Club, where Nathan Rabin reviews the film.

For Cheryl Eddy, writing in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, it's a "Bronx-cheer pop Rashomon."

Updated through 4/1.

In the Voice, Laura Sinagra finds "something late-seeming about it," what with "the explosion of online video, from stalker cams to the stuff on various curatorial vlogs... That said, the concert comes off like a blast."

Jürgen Fauth: "The method of Awesome amounts to cubist filmmaking: like omnipresent gods, we are everywhere at once."

LA CityBeat: Beastie Boys Updates, 3/31: Steve Appleford's cover story for the LA CityBeat stretches from the movie back to cruising Sunset Boulevard with Mike D back in 1989.

Kurt at Twitch: "AIFST may look like a frappé of Sergei Eisenstein, Andy Warhol, Billy Van and Gerry Todd, but there is an intelligent design to the visual trickery."

Nathan Lee in the New York Times: "How much awesomeness can be achieved by a group of 40-something millionaires bouncing around in green tracksuits and gray hair as they bid the kids at Madison Square Garden to 'Shake Your Rump'?"

Bill White in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "For the most part, the film is a chaotic blur of disconnected movement that re-creates the feeling of an unforgettably bad concert experience."

Collin Souter at Hollywood Bitchslap: "As an overall experience, I found little to enjoy."

Sylvie Simmons in the Guardian: "While the overexposed white-outs, weird close-ups, and loud, throbbing bass may get a bit migrainous, the film's overall effect is one of freshness, energy and humor." But there's more to this piece than that, too; she meets the Beastie Boys, gets them to talk about their back story, Bush, etc.

Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post: "Awesome is one of those rare films that actually live up to every single word of their titles."

Looker: "It's fuckin' awesome."

Update, 4/1: An online listening tip. Cinematical's Karina Longworth talks with The Boys.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:43 PM

Drawing Restraint 9.

Eugene Hernandez has a longish talk with Matthew Barney at indieWIRE. Reviews of Drawing Restraint 9:

Drawing Restraint 9 In the New York Times, Stephen Holden finds "an overt spiritual dimension that is a new element in Mr Barney's work. If that spirituality is an outgrowth of his relationship with Björk, it is a welcome addition in an oeuvre whose obsession with athleticism, competition and fertility rites has sometimes taken on fascistic overtones."

Updated through 4/5.

My hat flies off to the Cinematical editors, by the way, for their reaction to an official request that they remove an image of Björk. But of course, that's just a footnote to Ryan Stewart's review, in which he explains, "For anyone who has not taken the trouble to view Drawing Restraints 1 - 8, they are art projects centered on the search for an artistic corollary to the physical condition known as hypertrophy, whereby muscles gain in strength when they meet resistance."

Andrew O'Hehir in Salon: "God knows what any of this amounts to, really."

In the Voice, Ed Halter proposes it amounts to little more than "big-budget ejaculation of ritual self-involvement and superficial foofery."

More talk with Barney: Karen Rosenberg in New York, via Ray Pride at Movie City Indie.

Reminders: Girish; Ed Gonzalez at Slant; and right here, David D'Arcy and Moira Sullivan.

Updates, 4/3: Michael Wilson files an entry in Artforum's diary on the US premiere in NYC: "Drawing Restraint 9 is unarguably Barney's most ambitious and spectacular film to date."

Harper's pulls up Roger D Hodge's "Onan the Magnificent" from the archives.

Update, 4/5: Daniel Kasman: "Outside of grand concepts, the film includes many other pleasures, and not just its visual esoteria, made surprisingly narrative, tense, and propulsive through Barney’s cross-cutting, which can swing from hackneyed and ignorant in one moment to evoking a kind of purity of simplistic of correlation in the next, reminiscent of its development ages ago in silent cinema."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:32 PM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2006

The horror, etc.

Wolf Creek Wolf Creek, the first film Seattle Times critic Moira Macdonald ever walked out on, the horror movie with a rating of 52 at Metacritic, "announced the arrival of an immensely gifted new director named Greg McLean - whose patience, control and ability to play the audience like a very cheap fiddle would have done Alfred Hitchcock proud - seemed lost on most adult moviegoers," argues Christopher Kelly, throwing down the gauntlet in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram. Similarly, Eli Roth's Hostel (55), James Wong's Final Destination 3 (41) and Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes (52):

Are the critics simply out of touch? Well, yes. Because if you can't recognize the often-astonishing level of craft on display in these films, then you're watching them with your eyes closed.

But the teenagers are getting it - and embracing perhaps the only movies around that dare to speak to larger social concerns and anxieties, especially about the often-faceless, unfathomably evil villains we must contend with in the aftermath of Sept 11.

Via Blake at Cinema Strikes Back.

Update: Xavier Mendik (check his creds at the bottom of the page) in Kamera on Hostel: "[W]hile the Bush administration's failure to apprehend high profile terrorists such as Osama bin Laden or quell the violence inherent in oversees campaigns such as Iraq can be read as wider signs of a neoconservative malaise, they have undoubtedly generated a widespread anti-American hostility that Eli Roth's pulp horror narrative cleverly taps into."

Update, 4/1: Matt Zoller Seitz has invited Christopher Kelly to discuss his article at the House Next Door, and he has indeed appeared to address several points brought up by Matt's readers.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:24 PM | Comments (10)

GC article roundup. 4.

David Cronenberg Nothing revives a moribund feature like necessity. Rounding up articles again because you need to know about David D'Arcy's interview with David Cronenberg. In a word: comprehensive. The Davids spoke at length a few weeks ago about Cronenberg's entire oeuvre, from the earliest "films" (as opposed to what Cronenberg calls his first "movie," Shivers) through A History of Violence and the upcoming TV series based on Dead Ringers, with several philosophical asides along the way.

David also rounds up the highlights of the recent International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal and talks with Danielle Schirman, who makes documentaries on objects whose designs have made such a profound impact on our lives we never even think about them. Also: A talk with Michael Winterbottom about Tristram Shandy and with Kevin Willmott (CSI: The Confederate States of America).

More interviews since the last roundup:

Bela Tarr

Seattle Arab and Iranian Film Festival I've saved mention of that one for last in order to slickly segue into another mention, namely, that GreenCine is sponsoring the opening night screening of Iraq in Fragments at the Seattle Arab and Iranian Film Festival on Friday (the fest runs through April 6).

Posted by dwhudson at 5:37 AM | Comments (1)

March 28, 2006

Words.

"If we choose our words well there will always be a way to find us."

Josh Friedman is back. To fully appreciate the return of this screenwriter and most entertaining blogger from cancer surgery, you must allow him to take you in his latest entry somewhere I seriously doubt you expect to go.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:40 AM

March 27, 2006

Shorts, 3/27.

Ferrara: Addiction "More than with any other filmmaker that I can think of, [Abel] Ferrara's cinema is one of wondrous messiness," writes Girish, opening another blog-a-thon, this one a Ferrera-Thon. Girish is keeping a list of links to nearly twenty more participants; you'll recognize several favorites and perhaps catch a new name or two as well. This is the tour you want to take today.

At AICN, Run-and-Gun offers a possible preview of the screenplay for Quentin Tarantino's half of Grind House.

"In a risk-averse town like Hollywood, the high church of horror has become the one sure bet," writes Devin Gordon in Newsweek. "Every decade or so, horror gets hot in Hollywood. This latest shockwave, though, is larger - and much more grotesque." David Ansen wonders, "Can we really be surprised, at a time when huge segments of the shockproof public are inured to the concept of real-life torture, that our horrormeisters are working overtime to test the limits of our sang-froid?... There's another route the horror movie can take, which bypasses blood and guts."

"Ost" is German for "east," and for several years now, there's been talk in Germany of "Ostalgie," a sort of looking back at the eastern half of the country before the Wall fell not so much in yearning but in a somewhat sweet light. Healthy in some ways, as long as it's not taken too far. Symptomatic films would be Sonnenallee, Good Bye Lenin!, Helden wie wir (Heroes Like Us) and, most recently, NVA. "Perhaps we needed the funny films to laugh it away once and for all, before we dealt with the serious stuff," says actor Ulrich Mühe at the end Ruth Elkins's piece for the Independent on, well, the serious stuff: Das Leben der Anderen (The Life of Others), "the story of a leading East German playwright whose near-perfect life falls apart when a politician falls for his girlfriend and orders the Stasi to spy on him." As mentioned here previously, critics are raving. More from Kyle James at Deutsche Welle.

Also in the Independent: David Thomson in the Indepedent on Find Me Guilty: "[Sidney] Lumet is too old or too amused to bother with righteousness."

"Movies, when you used to see them on the big screen, had a mystery that they no longer have." In the Los Angeles Times, Peter Bogdanovich mourns what is probably the inevitable passing of a universal, communal experience. You've heard it all before, though perhaps not expressed as eloquently. One nice tidbit does stand out for me, though: "The fact is, it takes at least 100 people to get a decent laugh in a movie — smaller audiences are just not given to letting go." Related: John Rogers: "I will tell you right now, right here, how to get people to go back to seeing movies in theaters. Without disruptive technology. Without theater upgrades. All for, oh, $4.65 an hour per screen."

The Devil and Daniel Johnston Sara Schieron interviews The Devil and Daniel Johnston director Jeff Feuerzeig and producer Henry Rosenthal (David Edelstein reviews the film in New York). Also at Slant: Ed Gonzalez on Drawing Restraint 9 (Karen Rosenberg talks with Matthew Barney for New York), Brick and Ice Age: The Meltdown.

Jette Kernion at her own site, celluloid eyes, on Wedding Crashers: "[U]nderneath all the Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson banter is a storyline closely related to It Happened One Night (1934) or even more apt, Midnight (1939)."

MS Smith: "At its core, The Little Foxes is a razor-sharp commentary on the kinds of social and familial relationships predicated upon new-world, American notions of money, success, and ownership."

Simon Garfield talks with Julien Temple about Glastonbury. Also in the Observer: Sarah Hughes on the teen noir heroes of Brick and Veronica Mars and Luke Jennings on Ballets Russes.

In the Guardian, David Belton, co-writer and producer of Shooting Dogs, defends the controversial decision to make the film in Rwanda.

Sterling Hayden. A lot more interesting than you might think. Just ask Tim Lucas. Also: Writer and director Eloy de la Iglesia, dead at 66.

The BBC: "A little-known audition by Marlon Brando for the lead role in Rebel Without a Cause, which later went to James Dean, has come to light."

Molière Slated for the lead in a Molière biopic: Romain Duris. Boyd van Hoeij has more at europeanfilm.net.

Ric Burns's Eugene O'Neill "recounts what may be the most television-friendly life story in the history of playwriting," writes Jonathan Kalb in the New York Times.

Before veering off into an amusing diversion on vocals, Michael Bérubé notes of Heart of Gold that "it's practically impossible to see the movie without thinking of it as the work of the Neil Young Preservation Society - and this is a good thing: Hey, we still have Neil with us! Things can't be all bad, now!" Via wood s lot.

At WSWS, David Walsh finds V for Vendetta "largely undone by the primitiveness of the artistic means and disoriented or wrongheaded social views." William Gibson likes it, though (via Fimoculous).

Kaleem Aftab gets a quick Q&A with Emmanuelle Béart over at the Time Out blog.

Today's Thank You for Smoking interview with Jason Reitman: Peter Sobczynski at Hollywood Bitchslap.

"I love movies. And, I love religion. Before my life melted into a pile of dissatisfied goo, I studied both at university. A lot of people found it an odd combination, but to me it makes perfect sense." At PCL LinkDump, K'Vitsh asks about your "moments of cinematic transcendence."

Online browsing tip. The site for Anders Morgenthaler's Princess is up. Via Todd at Twitch.

Online listening tip. Cyndi Greening with Eve & the Fire Horse director Julia Kwan and producer Erik Paulsson.

Online viewing tip #1. The Sound of Young America is hosting a rare footage of Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman as guests on the Dallas PBS station KERA (where I, too, first saw Monty Python) in a live 1975 appearance, during, of course, a pledge drive. Via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing. Note how taken the Brits' are with the armadillo (cf. the video for The Clash's "Rock the Casbah").

Community Shelter Planning Online viewing tip #2. Clips from Community Shelter Planning (1966), starring Gene Hackman over at PCL LinkDump.

Online viewing tip #3. Rosie Perez tells independentfilm.com about her doc, Yo Soy Boricua, Pa' Que Tu Lo Sepa.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Videoteque, a blog devoted to music videos, all downloads, no streams. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

Online viewing tips, round 2. Brandon Hardesty's re-enactments of scenes from his favorite movies. Also via Waxy.org, the Movie Timeline, a sort of history of the world as depicted in the movies.

Online viewing, listening and wallowing tip. Anne Thompson's excellent roundup of all sorts of things related to Spike Lee's use of "Chaiyya Chaiyya" in the opening and end credits for Inside Man. (That entry's still being updated, btw.)

Bookmark tip. Maja Bajevic's I Wish I was Born in a Hollywood Movie launches on Thursday.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:02 AM | Comments (2)

Fests and events, 3/27.

Iron Island A new New York Times New Directors/New Films roundup: Docs, John & Jane Toll-Free, In Bed and Old Joy. Also: Dave Kehr on the Iranian feature Iron Island: "Less consumed by behavioral details than many of his filmmaking compatriots, [Mohammad] Rasoulof makes bold use of symbolic imagery." More on that one from Ed Gonzalez in Slant.

More ND/NF: Cinematical's Martha Fischer reviews You & Me, "the cheerfully self-assured second feature from French director Julie Lopes-Curval."

The second annual Reverse Shot Presents runs from April 22 through 30 in NYC.

Deborah Scranton, whose first feature-length doc, The War Tapes, will be screening at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 25 through May 7), has joined the illustrious list of Indie Features 06 contributors.

Michael Hawley wraps the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival for the Evening Class.

What Newsweek's Vanessa Juarez discovered at SXSW: "[M]usic and film are having a hot and heavy affair." Also via Matt Dentler, an online viewing tip. G4's report from the film festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:24 AM

Stanislaw Lem, 1921 - 2006.

Stanislaw Lem
Stanislaw Lem, the science fiction author who wrote Solaris, has died in Krakow on Monday. He was 84.

DNA World.

He is probably the best single sci-fi author of the late 20th century not to write in English. Lem often writes in comical style, but examines serious moral questions about technological progress, the limits of science, and our place in the universe.

[...]

Lem's early novels and stories were more or less optimistic and based on the conventions of Socialist Realism. He examined technological development, future civilizations, and responsibility of scientist. In the 1960s Lem's visions became more independent, experimental and radical.

Books and Writers.

The official site. A bibliography. See also Nathan M Powers at the Scriptorium.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:51 AM

Cahiers du Cinéma. In English.

Is this a new feature? Thomas Groh, too, wonders out loud in his filmtagebuch: Selections from Cahiers due Cinéma are now available in English. And four other languages. Samples:

Cahiers Cyril Neyrat: "Making a film, for [Robert] Kramer, is to fight against the dogma of the objectivity of the real, common base to the conservative vision of the world and to the doxa of cinema, notably documentary, as the recording of the same 'reality.'"

Emmanuel Burdeau on Capote as well as this: "In the past few months, the Cahiers have on numerous occasions spoken of 'a subtilization of cinema' and of 'subtle cinema,' in order to describe what in contemporary cinema seems to them the strongest and the newest. What should be understood by these terms?" The answer may or may not emerge as you read on, but it seems to have something to do with cinema's ability to perpetually come up with clever new ways to avoid its own demise. Related: Hervé Aubron, riffing on Sunrise: "The 'death of cinema' is at last finally dead."

In a grounded and intriguing piece, Jean-Michel Frodon considers how Syriana and Munich reveal the ways Hollywood is coming to terms with a globalized and "disoriented" world.

For Charlotte Garson, Good Night, and Good Luck is "a subversion of the biographical picture."

That seems to be it so far, but here's a wrap-up I never thought I'd find myself typing: You can subscribe to the Cahiers RSS feed and keep up with future issues.

Update: Thomas has found more features; see the comments below or click his name.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:58 AM | Comments (5)

Il Caimano.

Il Caimano With national elections just two weeks away in Italy, Il Caimano (The Cayman), Nanni Moretti's latest, which Deborah Young calls an "entertaining comedy with an electrifying critique of Silvio Berlusconi" in Variety, has opened all across Italy, infuriating the prime minister, naturally, and the right in general, as Peter Popham reports from Rome for the Independent. "Yet if the Italian opposition were hoping for a work that, like Fahrenheit 9/11 in the US, would inspire supporters, they hoped in vain," notes Popham. "Like all Moretti's films, it is too personal and idiosyncratic to be propaganda."

Interestingly, neither Popham nor Young mention that the film-within-film structure is at least somewhat reminiscent of Jan Henrik Stahlberg's Bye Bye Berlusconi!, though Lee Marshall does drop the title in passing (along with the documentary Viva Zapatero!) in his review for Screen Daily. For Marshall, Moretti's "a fascinating experiment, and one that very nearly succeeds." Still, it does sound fun. Young: "Film buffs will delight in the procession of Italian directors who flash by in cameos, as well as salutes to helmers Federico Fellini and Hayao Miyazaki. Newsreel footage of Berlusconi appearing at his most tasteless before the European Parliament is a jewel."

Update: Cineuropa reports on the film's "strong opening weekend at the box office."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:28 AM

March 26, 2006

Richard Fleischer, 1916 - 2006.

Richard Fleischer
Richard Fleischer, veteran director of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage and Tora! Tora! Tora!, has died in Los Angeles at the age of 89.

The BBC.

Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in Conan the Destroyer, praised Fleischer as "a true Hollywood legend."

The AP.

Richard Fleischer is a director every cinephile knows and very few write about... Upon first glance, Fleischer fits the bill as a studio craftsman... But we do an injustice to Fleischer if we say that Follow Me Quietly is purely the product of a system, or that Mandingo's (1975) perverse merits are wholly unintentional consequences.

Zach Campbell in an entry in the "Director Retrospective" in the most recent issue of the Film Journal.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:18 AM

March 25, 2006

Weekend shorts.

Drawing Restraint 9 Girish's initial impressions of Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 run deeper than most complete reviews you'll likely run across.

At Twitch, Todd, who also reviews "Thai comic fantasy epic" In The Name of the Tiger and Takashi Miike's Osaka Tough Guys, passes along info on Apichatpong Weerasethakul's next one, Utopia.

At Koreanfilm.org, Kyu Hyun Kim talks with producer Lee Choon-yun, whose rock-solid commitment to the Whispering Corridors series has paid off handsomely over the years both commercially and artistically," and actress Cha Ye-ryun, "making her debut in Voice as the ill-fated psychic girl Cho-ah, projecting a distinctively feline and mysterious aura."

In the New York Times:

  • Dennis Lim talks with Kelly Reichardt about her remarkable film, Old Joy - and to Jonathan Raymond, who co-wrote the screenplay and the short story the film's based on. He describes it as "'a second-term kind of movie,' referring to the Bush presidency. 'There is a point when anger turns to ruefulness,' he said."

  • "[A] Spike Lee film is often more impressive at second glance than it was at first," writes Caryn James. "A look back at his career, freed from received opinions and skewed memories, shows that major works like Do the Right Thing hold up. And some underappreciated gems emerge, like the nuanced Jungle Fever (1991), about an interracial romance, and the audacious Bamboozled (2000), his satirical take on a contemporary minstrel show." Related: Lesley O'Toole interviews Lee for the Guardian.

Brick
  • Charles McGrath introduces a scene from what is "in many ways the quintessential indie film," Rian Johnson's Brick, "built around a genuinely inspired conceit — the notion of setting an old-fashioned noirish detective story in a contemporary Southern California high school."

Jean-Pierre Melville's Army in the Shadows is "a great film," writes Richard Vinen, but it has "made curiously little impact on French cinema." Vinen looks into the reasons why. Also in the Guardian: "For many celebrities, conspiracy theories are the VIP rooms of history." Marina Hyde notes that Charlie Sheen is banging on the door.

The subjects of two widely praised docs, Townes Van Zandt: Be Here to Love Me and William Eggleston in the Real World have more in common than you might think, notes Sam Sweet for Stop Smiling.

At WSWS, Joanne Laurier on Edvard Munch: "[Peter] Watkins< indicates that Munch's psychological self-examination was not merely an individual endeavor, but reflected something significant about the growing self-awareness of a new age."

David Austin at Cinema Strikes Back on Michele Soavi's Uno Bianca: "What it gives up in sheer, over-the-top violent spectacle it gains in cool intelligence."

Guillermo Arriaga, who wrote Amores Perros, 21 Grams and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, tells Alastair Sooke what impresses him about Fatih Akin's Head-On: "You don't notice the photography or the soundtrack. You're immersed in the lives on screen more than in the cinematic experience."

Also in the Telegraph, Sheila Johnston: "Plenty of filmmakers are plucked from obscure independent origins and placed at the helm of big-budget action movies. But there is also a growing, and more surprising, reverse trend: well-respected, comfortable directors who feel compelled to return to their gritty - and sometimes downright avant-garde - roots."

Frankenstein "[W]hat one does not see can be more important than what one does, especially when what is seen is so unreliable and ambiguous." Leo Goldsmith on both Frankenstein and Spirit of the Beehive.

Adam Walter's been considering the difference between "films that scare you and films that disturb you in some deep way." Via Jeffrey Overstreet.

Thank You for Smoking reflects the conservative views of Christopher Buckley, argues Ben Adler In the American Prospect: "[A]musing as it was, the film left me with the strange feeling of having just seen Ayn Rand for Dummies."

"[I]t's no longer a mystery to me that people can express such intense feelings of unbridled venom because they came across a movie review (a movie review!) that revealed feelings not correspondent with their own," writes Toronto Star film critic Geoff Pevere. "This is an era of coarsened discourse and blunt response, an alleged frontier of new democracy in which the guns and ammo are free and ample and easy to use." Via Movie City News, where Gary Dretzka writes, "Stylistically and thematically, Stoned can stand as a companion piece to Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's Performance, a twisted little thriller from 1970 that featured [Anita] Pallenberg, Mick Jagger and James Fox."

SFist's Eve interviews Wim Wenders. Also: Emily reviews Linda Linda Linda.

Two more SXSW reviews at Cinematical: Jette Kernion on Jumping Off Bridges, a film "at its best during the small moments," and Karina Longworth on the "fairly phenomenal" loudQUIETloud.

You may have heard that Randy Quaid is suing the producers of Brokeback Mountain, claiming he was duped into thinking it'd be "a low-budget, art-house film," which is why he waived his usual fee. At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore gathers reactions from Eugene Hernandez, Ty Burr and David Poland.

Meanwhile, Filmmaker's Peter Bowen posts a followup from James Schamus to the exchange between the Brokeback producer and Daniel Mendelsohn, who reviewed the film for the New York Review of Books.

With all this talk of Brokeback, you'd think the world's forgotten which movie actually took the big prize barely three weeks ago. Not Dave Kehr: "Turning bad writing into a metaphysical principle is indeed an accomplishment, and one that might well deserve an award - though Best Picture of 2005 is going a bit too far."

The Reeler catches Andrew Sarris "all but calling it in with quotes lifted (verbatim in some cases) from Film Forum's program notes for its current Don Siegel series."

Gregg Goldsteinin the Hollywood Reporter: "John Malkovich is portraying a 23rd century corporate overlord opposite Thomas Jane in Simon Hunter's sci-fi action thriller The Mutant Chronicles.

Game makers need to stop trying to imitate the movies, argues Jordan Mechner in Wired: "One day soon, calling a game 'cinematic' will be a backhanded compliment, like calling a movie 'stagy.'" Via John August.

Snakes on a Plane needs your dialogue. Via Ben at the Whine Colored Sea.

Online fiddling around tip. Via Coudal Partners, a site for David Byrne and Brian Eno's highly influential 1981 album, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, to be remastered and re-released with bonus tracks on April 11. The fiddling around part: "In keeping with the spirit of the original album, Brian and David are offering for download all the multitracks on two of the songs. Through signing up to the user license, and in line with Creative Commons licenses, you are free to edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks however you like."

Online browsing tip #1. Mexican Lobby Cards, via Posterwire.com.

Sock! Online browsing tip #2. Las Onomatopeyas, via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Online browsing tip #3. The Best of Everything: A Joan Crawford Encyclopedia, via Campaspe, who calls it "a massive labor of love and surely one of the most complete and fascinating fan sites on the Web." Related: Greenbriar Picture Shows on Thursday, Crawford's birthday.

Online listening tip. Sound Effects, volumes 13 (Death and Horror, 1977) and 21 (More Death and Horror, 1978). Also via The Crime in Your Coffee.

Online viewing tip. Also via Coudal Partners, the trailer for Unheardfilm, "the new soundtrack festival" that wrapped in Amsterdam on March 11.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:11 PM | Comments (4)

Nerve. The Film Issue.

Nerve: The Film Issue Interesting approach Nerve's taking on its Film Issue; nearly a dozen of the articles aren't online yet. Instead, they'll be appearing over the next several days, meaning: We'll be back. In the meantime, members can vote for the best and worst onscreen sex while the rest of us can read Michael Joseph Gross on Brokeback Mountain: "For many straight people, watching this movie is the first time they've spent two hours imagining themselves as gay men. Or, more precisely, it's the first time they've imagined themselves as men who are struggling, and failing, to imagine themselves as gay."

Justin Clark considers the impact on the film industry of religious conservative Philip Anschutz, whom he suggests is becoming a sort of American Rupert Murdoch.

Bilge Ebiri highlights his personal Sundance favorites.

Nichole Marks rounds up sex advice from four stunt performers, asking questions like, "Any tips for picking up movie stars?"

Posted by dwhudson at 12:57 PM

March 24, 2006

Watching the ships roll in...

Otis Redding If only you could wear indies. Color-coordinated, naturally. From the site for the 9th annual Sonoma Valley Film Festival (April 5 through 9): "The Festival welcomes filmmakers and film lovers to an intimate and luxurious extended weekend, pairing good food, fine wine and over 75 new independent films from all over the world." Lovely.

Meanwhile, a few miles south: "This working for the joy of putting on the event is great when you're young and idealistic," reads a Craigslist posting from the SF IndieFest. "But since its getting harder and harder to make these events work out financially, perhaps we should start looking for some support for these well loved events we do." Which is what they're doing. They do great things and now they need sponsors.

Sonoma has Mercedes. Penelope Spheeris will be there, though I doubt they'll be screening The Decline of Western Civilization. But then again, who knows. The world's a strange place.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:49 PM

SFIAAFF. Winners.

The 24th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival award-winners:

Punching the Sun

The San Francisco portion of the fest wrapped last night, but SFIAAFF rolls on through the weekend at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley and the Camera Cinemas in San Jose.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:53 AM

Shorts, 3/24.

Sorious Samura Paul Vallely meets documentary filmmaker Sorious Samura: "The man Time magazine put on its list of 30 people 'who had made an outstanding contribution to world affairs' a couple of years back, has made something of a speciality of putting himself into gruelling situations."

Also in the Independent:

Broken Screen For the LA CityBeat, Rebecca Epstein reviews Broken Screen: Expanding the Image, Breaking the Narrative, "an engaging and surprising new book by celebrated Southern California video installation artist Doug Aitken."

Matt Zoller Seitz introduces his good and long talk with Puzzlehead director James Bai: "It's not a crash-and-burn action picture or a gory shocker; rather, it's an unsettling psychological drama, scored with a mournful harpsichord, that reimagines Frankenstein as an existential potboiler about a coldly patriarchial scientist who invents monstrous-yet-childlike servant and heir named Puzzlehead."

A big roundup in the Nation from Stuart Klawans: L'Enfant, V for Vendetta, Shakespeare Behind Bars, Toro Negro, The Devil's Miner and Mardi Gras: Made in China.

The Hollywood Reporter's Martin A Grove gets to peek at Marco Kreuzpaintner's next film, tentatively entitled Welcome to America and starring Kevin Kline. Stateside, the Kreuzpaintner's Summer Storm is currently sneaking into a few theaters. See, for example, Nathan Lee's review in the NYT.

The leading contenders for the German Film Awards (the Lolas): The Lives of Others, Requiem and Summer in Berlin. Scott Roxborough reports for Reuters. More from Boyd van Hoeij, who also interviews Drømmen director Niels Arden Oplev.

Mr Arkadin Tim Lucas was hoping the work he's done sorting out the origins of Orson Welles's Mr Arkadin might be mentioned in Criterion's soon-to-be-released packaged, The Complete Mr Arkadin. He's still looking.

JR Jones in the Chicago Reader on Nick Naylor, the lobbyist propelling Thank You for Smoking: "He doesn't undergo any dark night of the soul or squishy redemption because there really is a guiding principle behind his chicanery: grown adults should be expected to take responsibility for their own actions."

Besides starring in the most-talked-about movie of the season, Samuel L Jackson will be narrating Bob Saget's Farce of the Penguins, reports Chris Tilly for Time Out.

Doug Cummings met Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and shows us the resulting piece, now running in the current issue of Paste. More on L'Enfant from Manohla Dargis in the New York Times and Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times.

And more reviews in the NYT:

Lonesome Jim

Marco Lanzagorta picks up his history of special effects at PopMatters: "[I]n spite of the interesting visual tricks created for the films of Murnau and Wegener, it was Fritz Lang who truly revolutionized the use of large-scale special effects."

"Because V for Vendetta is the most expensive Britain-as-totalitarian-dystopia film ever made, it provokes comparison with the greatest BATD film ever made, Terry Gilliam's bleak 1985 comedy Brazil," proposes Matt Feeney at Slate. "While V for Vendetta marks the Wachowskis' continued slide into mediocrity and self-importance, Brazil is Gilliam's most fully realized work. In no other film has Gilliam been able to put his penchant for baroque set design and elaborate comic digression to such exquisite use."

Larry Gross at Movie City News: "V for Vendetta forwards the gay political agenda far more vigorously, unapologetically and, one might say, passionately than Brokeback ever did."

For the Age, Jim Schembri lists "25 must-see, easy-to-find films designed to cure any case of pop-culture poverty." Also: Alex Tibbitts meets Gael García Bernal and a Reuters report on Benicio Del Toro's next one: The Wolf Man.

David Serdlick at Alternet: "Just as lesbians have tuned in for three seasons to see themselves in prime time, biracial Americans are keeping up with The L Word to follow Bette's story - our story - each week as Bette's triumphs and setbacks add up to a real and affirming portrait of a community that has infrequently had a voice in popular culture."

John Turturro was recently onstage at the National Film Theatre in London, being interviewed by Mark Kermode. The Guardian runs the transcript.

Also:

Glastonbury

  • Patrick Barkham on Julien Temple's Glastonbury: "Deluged with 54,000 minutes of footage, he whittled it down to 128 that knit together an uncompromising tale of Glastonbury that comes as close to touching, hearing and feeling it as possible."

  • How did Caché become that rarity of rarities, a foreign-language hit in the UK, wonders Jon Bentham.

  • John Patterson notes that small and big screens in the US are full of rage at Bush.

At WSWS, Ruby Rankin reviews Joyeux Noël, "a deeply affecting work and one that canvases a number of important and timely themes: the backwardness and eventual deadly trap of nationalism, the commonality of ordinary people, the complete lack of concern and even open hostility of the ruling elite for 'their' own soldiers and the importance of art and culture in human society."

Spike Lee's Bamboozled is far better than its rep, argues Marcus Gilmer at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.

Clerks 2 At Cinematical, Martha Fischer describes Kevin Smith's fresh take on the now-usual MySpace marketing campaign, while Erik Davis reports that Smith will be replacing Jorge Garcia, the largish guy in Lost, to take on the role of Harry Knowles in Fanboys.

In the International Herald Tribune, Eric Pfanner surveys the major studios' next ventures into VOD in Europe. More from the Hollywood Reporter.

At SFist, Eve rounds up linkage on the sale of the Kabuki 8, a local theater (where I saw Howl's Moving Castle last summer) to Sundance Cinemas. Quick commentary: Anthony Kaufman.

A DIY Film Group at indieWIRE? Sujewa Ekanayake explains.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:13 AM

Fests and events, 3/24.

At Cinematical, Martha Fischer finds the lineup for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (April 6 through 9).

Thessaloniki International Documentary Film Festival At indieWIRE: David Wilson on the recently wrapped Thessaloniki International Documentary Film Festival and Tamara Schweitzer's preview of the Sarasota Film Festival.

What to do in San Francisco? Brian Darr's got you covered.

Stephen Holden introduces the latest New York Times roundup of brief reviews of films screening in the New Directors/New Films series.

SXSW reviews: Tim Basham on Heavens Fall and Danielson: A Family Movie and, at Cinematical, Jette Kernion on Doug Block's 51 Birch Street.

Once again, Mark Pfeiffer in Cleveland.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:13 AM

March 23, 2006

Shorts, 3/23.

Matt Clayfield: "Every now and then you have an experience at the cinema that defies description, renders you shell-shocked, and makes other films - even very good ones - seem trifling and insignificant by comparison. Last night, I had one such experience, the film question being Orson Welles's remarkable Chimes at Midnight."

The Girl Who Walked Home Alone "We were talking about Bette Davis. I told The Smartest Man I Know that I thought the way she habitually flounced into a scene and seized it by the nape of its neck indicated that she was a bit of a ham. 'She wasn't a ham,' he replied, 'she was a hysteric.'" Scott Eyman reviews Charlotte Chandler's The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, a Personal Biography in the New York Observer.

Back in October, novelist Stephen Beachy blew the lid off JT Leroy's cover in New York; this week, Beachy reviews The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things for the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "The real stars of this film are the emotionally overwrought mental landscapes of the not-so–white trash women who dreamed it up: [Asia] Argento and Laura Albert... Why, exactly, the mommy and daddy issues of these two women have been projected, once again, onto characters from a completely different socioeconomic context is a mystery."

Also: Cheryl Eddy on the "occasionally sublime" Don't Come Knocking, Dennis Harvey on "perhaps the first major feel-bad musical," Oh! What a Lovely War!, and on Thank You for Smoking, which "gives good satire."

"Yousry Nasrallah is the cinema's most remote of unknown pleasures," writes Ed Gonzalez in the City Pages, and in Mercedes, "Nasrallah's mad, mad, mad, mad world is as giddy as it is hardcore."

Grady Hendrix has a Wong Kar-wai update.

David Carr profiles Steve Buscemi for the New York Times. Reviews: Nathan Lee on Shadow: Dead Riot, Stephen Holden on American Gun and Jeannette Catsoulis on Puzzlehead. Speaking of which, Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press: "Calling James Bai's promising feature debut, Puzzlehead, a Frankenstein movie is accurate up to a point, but it doesn't begin to capture the film's unnerving ambition."

Every once in a while, we need to be reminded of Nollywood, that is, Nigeria's film industry, the third largest in the world. Today's reminder comes from Jeevan Vasagar in the Guardian. Also: Tom Phillips remembers Brazilian producer Jarbas Barbosa.

Swept up in Andrew O'Hehir's "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon: Stoned (he talks with director Stephen Woolley; so, too, does Jennifer Merin in the New York Press; more on the film from Jessica Pallington), L'Enfant and The Beauty Academy of Kabul.

Recently at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: Adam Balz on Joseph Sargent's The Man (written by Rod Serling) and Rumsey Taylor on Belá Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies.

Our Times Doug Cummings: "[Rakhshan] Bani-Etemad's Our Times is a personal and informative time capsule of a crucial moment revealing the ongoing cultural tensions in Iran between conservatism and progress, and the film strikes an effective and precarious balance between hope and despair. It's a portrait of Iranian life rarely seen in the West."

The Reeler: "Just when you thought that the non-starting amnesia documentary Unknown White Male and its condemned distributor Wellspring were getting to the front of the line on death row, the Washington Post's David Segal creeped in Wednesday with a new round of suspicion about doc subject Doug Bruce just in time for Unknown's DC opening."

Chuck Tryon reviews Gregory Greene's "important and timely documentary," The End of Suburbia.

Das Leben der Anderen Over the past few days, some unusually positive reviews of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut feature, Das Leben der Anderen (The Life of Others), have been appearing in German papers, culminating yesterday (the film opens today). See yesterday's English-language signandsight for a taste. All in all, with the strength of the German entries at the Berlinale, with the likes of Wim Wenders and Franka Potente returning from the US to work here... it's been quite a year for German film so far.

"Spanish-language films have often been a hard nut for US distributors to crack," writes Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "Still, 2006 will see a steady rise of Spanish language movies (specifically from Mexico and Spain) - and the chance for another possible US breakthrough."

At Movie Poop Shoot, Kind Hearts and Coronets has DK Holm thinking about "why the British make better actors."

Jacques Audiard is working on the screenplay for his followup to The Beat That My Heart Skipped, reports Boyd van Hoeij at europeanfilms.net.

At Listology, grandpa_chum compares three (but essentially two) wildly varying cuts of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

Bibi rounds up resources on the best of the bad. Via Coudal Partners. Meanwhile, the polls are still open over at Edward Copeland's place: Vote for the worst films to ever win a Best Picture Oscar.

Think you could work up a 30-second public service announcement to rouse support for international disaster relief efforts? The Center for International Disaster Information is running a contest you might be interested in.

The BBC: "Cuban singer Pio Leyva, who gained global fame with the Buena Vista Social Club group, has died at the age of 88."

Blum Blum Online viewing tip #1. Duane Crowther's Blum Blum, via MrDanteFontana at PCL LinkDump.

Online viewing tip #2. SUPER!ALRIGHT!'s remix of the trailer for A Scanner Darkly, via Screenhead, also pointing to Negativland's truth in advertising.

Online viewing tip #3. Apocalypse Pooh, a 1987 mash-up via Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing.

Online viewing tips, round 1. Two by José Carlos Casado at DVblog.

Online viewing tips, round 2. A batch of trailers at europeanfilms.net.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:25 PM

Interviews, 3/23.

Ray Pride's found a good one. For the Helsingin Sanomat, Hannu Marttila talks with Aki Kaurismäki about his probable Cannes entry, Lights in the Dusk.

L'Enfant "Like the Dardennes' previous film Le Fils, L'Enfant is a movie named for a child that’s really about the struggle to become a dad," writes Ella Taylor for the LA Weekly, where Scott Foundas talks with the brothers. More on the film from Armond White in the New York Press.

At Cinema Strikes Back, Blake has a good long talk with John C Reilly about working with Robert Altman on A Prairie Home Companion.

Michael Guillen talks with Deepa Mehta following the SFIAAFF screening of Water.

At Ghibli World, Peter interviews anime legend Isao Takahata. Via logboy at Twitch.

Cinematical's Kim Voynar talks with Jason Reitman about Thank You for Smoking. And has a review, too.

Christopher Bahn interviews Ray Harryhausen for the AV Club.

Art School Confidential For Film & Video, Bryant Frazer asks Robert Hoffmann about editing Art School Confidential.

Stop Smiling runs a brief excerpt from its interview with DA Pennebaker.

Online listening tip(s). Anglophenia talks with Miranda Richardson and Bill Nighy about their roles in Gideon's Daughter - and more, of course. You can choose which answers to which questions you'll listen to. Not a bad format, in some ways.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:36 PM

Fests and events, 3/23.

Untamagiru Matt Zoller Seitz on the series Dream Show: The Films of Takamine Go at the Anthology Film Archives through Monday: "Takamine Go's films aren't just aesthetically rich and politically significant, they're beautiful, odd and, if you're in the right frame of mind, entrancing."

Manohla Dargis surveys the "invariably eclectic and determinedly inclusive" New Directors/New Films series for the New York Times. And from Armond White in the New York Press: "Anyone fooled by Ang Lee's Heath Ledger/Jake Gyllenhaal charade should rush to the New Directors/New Films premiere of The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros. (It shows March 22, 23 and 25.) It offers the real thing - progress."

Antony Sher in the Guardian: "Queer cinema is at the heart of the forthcoming London Lesbian and Gay film festival (LLGFF). It was a pleasant surprise to me that this is its 20th anniversary - 20 years of celebrating gay, lesbian or queer cinema! Call it what you will, that's quite something."

Free screenings and a symposium, April 9 and 10 at UCLA: Out of the Closet, Into the Vaults, focusing on preserving the legacy of LGBT cinema.

Kevin Crust notes the political focus of this year's Silver Lake Film Festival, tonight through March 31. Also in the Los Angeles Times, Susan King explains why the "Los Angeles area is the go-to place for film festivals."

Tamara Schweitzer previews the Philadelphia Film Festival (March 30 through April 11) for indieWIRE. Grady Hendrix comments on a few titles to be screened in the Danger After Dark program.

Mark Pfeiffer: "So I'm back at the 30th Cleveland International Film Festival inhaling films like a sprinter sucks down air after a race."

More SFist SFIAAFF reviews:

Red Doors

Michael Guillen listens in on the panel discussion following the first screening of The Slanted Screen.

At JoongAng Daily, where Lee Min-a reports on Im Kwon-taek's 100th film, Park Soo-mee has a brief backgrounder on Korean Cinema 1996: Ten Years of Memory, running at Seoul Art Cinema through March 26.

At the IFC Blog, Alison Willmore finds that the New York Asian Film Festival has announced a few titles to be screened between June 16 and July 1.

At Twitch, Todd previews a Takashi Miike retrospective running in Turin from April 18 through May 9.

"We're having a tough time letting go of SXSW Film 06," write the Austin Chronicle folks, and understandably so. But Joe O'Connell brings good news of a few events Austinites can look forward to. Meanwhile: Matt Dentler's "20 Most Memorable SXSW Moments."

In Seattle? Cinematical's Kim Voynar has a few suggestions. Also: the Seattle Arab & Iranian Film Festival runs from March 31 through April 6.

Acquarello's latest Rendez-Vous with French Cinema reviews: Grey Souls, Housewarming, and I Saw Ben Barka Get Killed.

There's still time to submit work to the Independent Lens Online Shorts Festival.

Posted by dwhudson at 3:08 PM

AIVF.

"The Association of Independent Film and Videomakers is one of the country's oldest media arts groups as well as publisher of The Independent," writes Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay. "It recently announced a reinvention due to a financial crisis and is calling on members and supporters in the indie community to help."

AIVF

IndieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez explains the fundraising initiative.

Sujewa Ekanayake: "Really people - all you indie filmmakers & indie film fans out out there, do it, save AIVF."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:38 PM

Inside Man.

Inside Man "The heist at the heart of Inside Man is brilliant, and so is the movie," proclaims Scott Foundas right off the top of his review for the LA Weekly. "It's a gripping, jugular entertainment that starts off wound-up and never winds down, and only much later do you realize the movie isn't just playing the audience like a violin, it's also saying something cunning about human nature and the price of success in the big city."

My, how mileage varies. Writing in the City Pages, Michael Atkinson finds the film "irrelevant, another semi-high-tech mega-heist movie, the rhythms and tropes of which we are all as familiar with as we are with the wallpaper facing our toilets.... [H]eist films are hardly what they used to be; for decades, they were a vehicle for postwar desperation and fatalism, and today the genre has an empty tank of frisson to offer without film noir's acknowledgment of doom."

After the jump: Updates through 3/30.

The film earns a B+ from Scott Tobias at the AV Club: "Denzel Washington always does his best work with Lee, and he's charming and in command as the unflappable detective put in charge of an unusual bank robbery attempt."

At Slant, Nick Schager: "Perhaps not Lee's dullest 'joint,' it's nonetheless one of his most sloppily rolled."

Counters Jeffrey Overstreet: "It's a satisfying, intense, and surprisingly laugh-out-loud-funny thriller." And for Cinematical's James Rocchi, it's "one of the most satisfying pieces of grown-up entertainment big Hollywood's given us in a long time."

Matt Zoller Seitz in the New York Press: "Some of Lee's social tension seems shoehorned in, but the best of it plays like an earthbound answer to Crash's direct-from-1971 racist caterwauling - an accurate rendition of modern urban America's infinite gradations of prejudice, and a true portrait of how such impulses get submerged and redirected so people can get ahead."

Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster Spike Lee is not only one of the more interesting directors around precisely because his track record is so mixed (I can barely abide straight-A filmmakers), but he's also one of those rare celebs who can make an interview almost as engaging to read as his films are to watch (you'll remember Sara Vilkomerson's in the New York Observer). signandsight translates a bit from Hanns-Georg Rodek's interview for Die Welt. Here, Lee talks more about his next feature, written by Budd Schulberg, about the Max Schmeling-Joe Louis face-off: "Schulberg sat in the audience of the second Schmeling/Louis fight in 1938. Terence Howard, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Hustle & Flow will play Louis, and Hugh Jackson will play Schmeling. Now I'm working on the financing... It's going to be an epic: Hitler, Goebbels, Roosevelt, Mussolini, Lena Horne. Ever heard of David Lean? I'm telling you: epic. Three hours at least! Bigger than Malcolm X!"

One can imagine that, given Jodie Foster's on-again, off-again efforts to make her Leni Riefenstahl biopic, she and Lee might have had quite a lot to talk about in the run-up to shooting Inside Man. For one thing, both plan to make their films in Berlin.

But that's not all signandsight's got on this one: There's also a translation of Katja Nicodemus's interview with Lee for Die Zeit and, it turns out, that film is really very much on his mind. He asks her who might play Max Schmeling's wife.

Then, via Movie City News, Kaleem Aftab, co-author of Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It, talks with Lee again for the Times of London.

The Cinemarati who've caught the film open a thread. They've already been discussing one oddity in particular, that Inside Man opens and closes with what Grady Hendrix calls "Dil Se's signature tune, 'Chaiya Chaiya.'"

And here in Germany, it's opened tonight, meaning the German papers have run their reviews. Filmz.de rounds them up.

Reminders: Michael Guillen, Emanuel Levy and, at the Voice, J Hoberman.

Updates, 3/24. "[J]ust as Jimmy Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock brought out the best in each other, Denzel and Spike need each other like vermouth and gin," writes Grady Hendrix at Slate, and further down: "More than anything, [Inside Man] makes the case for Lee as the pre-eminent chronicler of modern-day New York."

Stephanie Zacharek in Salon: "He has a feel for the city that relatively few other filmmakers do, a knack for capturing not just the things people say to each other and the way they say them, but the way the city seems to be carried - maybe even powered - by the rhythm of their overlapping sentences: That symphony of speech is the city's greatest source of vitality."

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "This is the least overtly personal of Mr Lee's films, but it's also his most polished and satisfying work in years, with none of the raggedness that sometimes mars even his best intentions."

In the Times of London, James Christopher calls the film "a frothy heist movie that hasn't got a single worthy thought in its head."

Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian: "Supremely annoying and nonsensical."

Andy Klein for the LA CityBeat: "[I]t's the sort of commercial thriller that Hollywood thrives on... and a damned good one at that. Lee changes gears with barely a hitch."

Anthony Quinn in the Independent: "It's less Inside Man than Marathon Man, and the disappointment follows you all the way out the cinema."

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: A "deft and satisfying entertainment, an elegant, expertly acted puzzler that is just off-base and out-of-the-ordinary enough to keep us consistently involved."

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times: "It's not that the movie is hiding something, but that when it's revealed, it's been left sitting too long at room temperature."

Updates, 3/25: Tim Robey writes in the Telegraph that Lee's "righteous anger - the urban discontent that fuels all his best work - isn't snuffed out so much as turned down to simmer away around the film's edges."

Anne Thompson has a theory as to why Lee's career ran into trouble a while back. And she points to reviews from the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter and the Globe and Mail's Rick Groen.

MaryAnn Johanson explains why she considers Inside Man "a lousy lay."

Jeffrey M Anderson: "If any old director-for-hire had made Inside Man it would have been a pretty good thriller. But Spike Lee makes it into something extraordinary.... the best I've seen so far this year."

Leo Goldsmith at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "As much as I think that Spike Lee is one of the most underrated directors around, it would seem that straighter genre films fit his skills more than his usual grab-bags."

Updates, 3/26: Newsweek's David Ansen: "Inside Man, a bank-heist thriller with a tricky, nothing-is-as-it-seems playfulness, is the kind of solid, mass-appeal entertainment that Hollywood is supposed to knock out in its sleep but rarely pulls off even when wide awake."

Chuck Tryon: "While many observers have noted that Inside Man appears to be the 'least personal' film that Lee has made, I'm not sure that's the case... [T]he post 9/11 New York setting is crucial to the film's narrative and provides a basis for the interactions between characters... Perhaps his most compelling critique, however, features Dalton, the author of the heist, registering horror at a nine-year-old boy playing a Grand Theft Auto style video game on a Gameboy featuring disturbing depictions of black-on-black violence."

Chris Barsanti at filmcritic.com: "Inside Man is a film that swaggers."

Update, 3/30: Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly: "As this is his first journey into the vast Hollywood wilderness, it's almost too easy to see Spike Lee himself in the Denzel Washington character, trying to work a crooked system around to his own advantage, hoping he can find a way to do the right thing - but still get paid."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:35 PM | Comments (2)

Créteil Dispatch.

Moira Sullivan, who reported last month on efforts to achieve a greater degree of gender equality in the Swedish film industry, sends in a few lines from France.

Créteil Films de Femmes There are only a few annual festivals out there featuring the work of women working behind the camera and one in particular is considered the best in the world: Créteil Films de Femmes (March 10 through 19). Jackie Buet, with the support of the Créteil municipal government and several cultural and media organizations, has directed this event since the 80s. It is a meeting ground for women working in international cinema with special retrospectives and sidebars. The festival also houses a unique archive of each year's films in cooperation with the filmmakers and distributors.

This year, the theme was "Utopias," and I Shot Andy Warhol by Mary Harron was one of many films screened, a film about the controversial visionary artist and poet Valerie Solanas.

Créteil features several competitions including a youth prize awarded by a student jury who selected Frauke Sandig and Erik Black's Frozen Angels (Germany 2005) as best feature - a future take on genetic engineering told from the perspective of donors and surrogates, set in Los Angeles.

The public's prize went to Both (USA/Peru 2005), a film about intersexuals made by the Peruvian San Francisco-based filmmaker Lisset Barcellos. According to the director, the medical establishment surgically establishes the gender of a child with the genitalia of both sexes at birth. The records are then sealed without any possibility to monitor how the "adjustment" affects the individual. Doctors explain that "it's easier to dig a hole than to build a pole," says Barcellos.

The jury prize went to Sévigné by Marta Balletbò-Coll (Spain, 2004), the story of a theater director who must choose between her husband and the woman who has written the material for her latest production. Jamie Babbit's The Quiet was another strong contender in the feature film competition, a film about father/daughter incest, starring the haunting Elisha Cuthbert (24) and HBO veteran Edie Falco (The Sopranos) as mother and daughter. There is a made-for-TV feel here, but with talented performances in a labyrinth of intrigues. Babbit's fascination for cheerleaders, closet cases and gender bending informs her latest feature.

Sidebars this year included the work of Austrian director Ruth Beckermann on Jewish identity in Europe; she was given a ceremony and a series of shorts on "Women and Humor" sponsored by the European Coordination of Film Festivals. Several films from Vietnam and Cambodia were also featured. One of the films was Bride of Silence, directed by a brother and sister whose paths parted after the Vietnam War. Thanh Nghia Doan, who went to the USA, and Minh Phuong Doan, who wound up in Germany, are reunited in a mythic film about a young man who tries to find out who his mother was after the death of his father.

Last year the Créteil festival spotlighted achievements in non-narrative cinema and this year once again acknowledged the work of media artists Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki, both of Greek origin and based in Paris since 1975. Their work, which they call "corporeal cinema," explores sexuality and androgyny. The French Archives restored two of their Super 8 films from the 1980s - Selva. Un portrait de Parvaneh Navaï and Chutes. Désert. Syn, which have made their way to several art museums and film festivals, including MOMA, Créteil and the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

La Pirate Créteil devoted a special retrospective this year to guest of honor and Francophile Jane Birkin. The acclaimed actress released a new solo CD on the first day of spring, Fictions, with selections by a host of songwriters: Neil Hannon, The Magic Numbers, Beth Gibbons and Rufus Wainwright. Birkin's film debut was in Antonioni's cult classic Blow Up (1966) as a teenage fan. She was married to the late Serge Gainsbourg, starred with him in Je t'aime moi non plus (1976) and has worked with several major French directors, including Jacques Rivette and Agnès Varda. Birkin selected La Pirate (1984) by Jacques Doillon to be screened for the gala event in her honor, a film she believes didn't aesthetize her physicality. A film that certainly shows the range of her acting abilities and her trademar rolled-up shirt sleeves was the three hour extravaganza, Rivette's L'Amour Par Terre (1984).

Posted by dwhudson at 1:03 AM

March 22, 2006

Cinema Scope. 26.

Editor Mark Peranson explains his leeriness when it comes to lists, then explains the math behind Cinema Scope's first top ten - topped by L'enfant.

Post-Theory While no single theme runs throughout the new issue, the David Bordwell double does stand out. Bordwell himself has a back page column, short, highly readable and to the point: "contemporary film criticism is failing." Because it's actually more inspiring than admonishing, it's the sort of piece you may be tempted to print out and keep somewhere handy, and it confirms Chuck Stephens's assertion in the introduction to his lengthy interview with Bordwell that he's "an increasingly engaging and enjoyable writer who never takes his reader's pleasure for granted whether his topic happens to be the scholarly vagaries of current academic film studies (as in Post-Theory, co-edited by Noel Carroll, 1996), the stylistics of his favourite filmmaker, Ozu Yasujiro (treated at awe-inspiring length in the criminally out-of-print Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema - perhaps the single finest study-in-detail of a major filmmaker ever written in the English language), or the post-Handover hyperbolics of current Hong Kong cinema kingpin Johnnie To."

The other interview online is Christoph Huber's with Cristi Puiu, director of The Death of Mister Lazarescu, the #2 film on that afore-mentioned list.

In the first of three features online, Jason McBride considers Caveh Zahedi: "Fitting descriptive shorthand for all of Zahedi's work, an oeuvre that currently consists of four features and three shorts, and in which the ambitious, provocative I Am a Sex Addict can serve as both summa and introduction."

"American narrative film, or at least that narrow stream of it which pretends to seriousness, is being progressively reduced to the status of fetish object," writes Andrew Tracy. "Which makes perpetual bète noire Miramax's release of a new 'Director's Cut' edition of James Gray's The Yards (2000) both welcome and somewhat incongruous, coming from the studio that produced that almost Benjaminian relic Kill Bill (2003-4)."

Jerry White describes how Kim Longinotto, "a hard-headed progressive, but well aware of the contradictions that characterize every aspect of contemporary life," is "bringing the vérité documentary well and truly into the late-20th and early-21st century."

Two festival reports are due online soon, but for now, there's just one, in which Tom Charity decides to focus on Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep. For him, at Sundance, it "elicited a giddy exhilaration that had next to nothing to do with character arcs, story construction, or political point-scoring, and everything to do with cinema. When it comes to camera-stylo, Gondry is a virtuoso."

In the two columns besides Peranson's and Bordwell's, Andréa Picard reads Chris Marker's installation, Prelude: The Hollow Men, very, very closely, and Jonathan Rosenbaum delights yet again with his quick and tempting takes on dozens of DVDs he's had shipped into Chicago from all over the world.

There's only one review of a current film online, but George Kaltsounakis's seems necessary: "Hostel merely duplicates current circumnavigations of logistical, legal, and moral impediments to torture."

Posted by dwhudson at 1:24 AM

March 21, 2006

Shorts, 3/21.

Michael Dare has a proposal: Edit your own Being There. He's serious. He's got the materials. Who'll pick up the tab to make it happen? Via Coudal Partners.

Triumph des Willens Jonathan Jones: "A lot of illusions about our culture are challenged by watching Triumph of the Will. One of them concerns the modernist heritage.... Film is a mass art. The moderns who understood this were not, sad to say, a handful of surrealist subversives, but the court artists of the most murderous despots of all time."

Also in the Guardian and Observer:

  • Aid agencies are criticizing BBC Films for the traumatic effects Shooting Dogs [blog] is having on victims of the Rwandan genocide, reports Alice O'Keeffe in the Guardian. In the Observer, Linda Melvern, author of Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide, argues that the film "shows a shocking disregard for the historical record." Related: Director Michael Caton-Jones in the Independent: "I knew there was no film-making infrastructure in Rwanda and that it could quite possibly be a very miserable experience all round - but, for fuck's sake, it was their story. How could it not be made there?"

"If you are making a film of Play, you have to find a cinematic correlative to the interrogative light, which the stage directions specify as prompting every speech; otherwise the only alternative is to lock off the camera and record a live performance." The New Statesman runs an appreciation by Anthony Minghella of one of two artists who have "provided a lifelong compass," Samuel Beckett (the other is Bach), followed by further comments from Richard Eyre, Craig Raine, Charles Sturridge and John Hurt.

Rudkin: Vampyr "The British Film Institute has Dreyer fever these days, having just released David Rudkin's study of Vampyr (1932) for their Film Classics book series and several region 2 DVDs, beginning this week with Master of the House and Ordet (1955)," writes Doug Cummings, who goes on to explain why he's happier with the DVDs than with the book.

Stop Smiling runs a tantalizing excerpt from Nicolas Rapold's interview with David Cronenberg. More: the Toronto Star's Peter Howell, via Alison Willmore at the IFC Blog.

Ambiguity is essential to the Don Siegel aesthetic, proposes Dave Kehr, who also highlights the most interesting of this week's DVD releases. Also in the New York Times: Craig Modderno on what Jon Heder's up to, post-Napoleon Dynamite (a lot) and Charles Solomon argues that cartoon characters are too damn chatty these days.

J Hoberman in the Voice: "Possibly the least personal Spike Lee joint in the entire history of cinema, the bank-heist-hostage-policier-cryptoterrorist thriller Inside Man nevertheless manages to be a most enjoyable sampling of the director's treasured 'my way' eccentricities."

Also:

Puzzlehead

V for Vendetta "should be enjoyed as the first true anarchist movie Hollywood has ever made," argues Anthony Kaufman at Alternet. "Film historians speak fondly of the paranoid cycle of American cinema in the 1960s and 70s (The Manchurian Candidate, Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View) or the countercultural anti-heroic outlaws of Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands, but nowhere in mainstream US cinema - and certainly not post-9/11 - has there been a pop-culture phenomenon that advocates not only overthrowing a corrupt government, but blowing it up." Related: Gill Pringle listens to Natalie Portman for the Independent: "I loved that this film is an abstract thing because, after the Holocaust, people said it would never happen again but now we have Rwanda and Bosnia. Maybe V for Vendetta can remind us to stand up against such despotism." And Jennifer Vineyard interviews Alan Moore for MTV.

Ask the Dust Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader on Ask the Dust: "The depth and intensity of [John] Fante's autocritique are missing from writer-director Robert Towne's sexy, sensual, romantic, nostalgic adaptation of the novel, a labor of love he's been trying to realize for years... But to Towne's credit, he's a thoughtful and conscientious romantic." Related: Peter Sobczynski interviews Towne for Hollywood Bitchslap.

Campaspe praises William Wyler's "phenomenal ability to give his movies a sense of time and space."

In the Independent:

  • David Thomson: "[I]f the papers want to keep on getting movie advertising, they need to subscribe to the overall lie that the movies are worth seeing. In many markets, film critics with high standards have simply lost their jobs because they didn't like enough pictures." Related: Philip French in the Observer: "Sadly perhaps, there is no longer any serious antagonism between critics, film distributors and moviemakers." And at Cinematical, Karina Longworth: "Critical irrelevancy is not a new phenomenon."

  • Sheila Johnstone with the Dardennes: "Animated and genial, Luc, 51, and Jean-Pierre, 54, give interviews with good grace, but they make no secret about being uncomfortable at their red-carpet status." Related: A Reverse Shot triad at indieWIRE on L'Enfant as well as, in Kamera, Edward Lamberti and Antonio Pasolini and, in the Voice, J Hoberman and Dennis Lim.

  • Roger Clarke: "A quick rifle through [Catherine] Deneuve's public diary of the last 12 months shows a great deal of attendance at public events, fancy magazine launches and fashion shows - and very little in the way of acting in the movies."

Nathaniel R, currently anticipating William Friedkin's adaptation of Tracy Letts's play, among other films "coming soon but not soon enough," Bug, is hard at work on his personal list of top 100 "Actors of the Aughts."

Richard Schickel in the Los Angeles Times: "It's the useful business of The Film Snob's Dictionary to make cool, often genuinely witty fun of bad movies and the faux icons who make them." That doesn't mean he approves. More favorable reviews of David Kamp and Lawrence Levi's book: Stanley Kauffmann in the New Republic and Diane Garrett in Variety.

Guess who's happy Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain for the Best Picture Oscar: Slavoj Zizek. Seriously. He explains in the Frankfurter Rundschau (and in German). Via signandsight. Related (and what's more, in English): An exchange in the New York Review of Books on the film between James Schamus, Joel Conarroe and Daniel Mendelsohn.

A few Wenders links worth reviving, via wood s lot: "In Defense of Places," a speech delivered in 2003, and a 2002 exhibition, Pictures from the Surface of the Earth. And, on an entirely different note, Julian Stallabrass in the New Left Review on "Spectacle and Terror."

Noy Thrupkaew for the American Prospect: "That Tsotsi - adapted from playwright Athol Fugard's novel set in a period of harsh apartheid rule in the 50s - has been so effortlessly updated into modern-day South Africa is its own damning statement on the lingering effects of racial oppression. And yet the racial critique remains a subtext in the film - a strong yet scarcely visible undertow."

Grady Hendrix can't help but post about it again, and no wonder: "Given that he makes films at the same rate most blogs are updated, was there ever a doubt that Takashi Miike would take to blogging like a duck to water?"

The Winona Ryder News Channel (no, really) interviews A Scanner Darkly animator Mike Stovall. Via Kim Voynar at Cinematical.

Atonement A Pride & Prejudice reunion of sorts: Director Joe Wright and producer Paul Webster are teaming with Keira Knightley for an adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement; Cinematical's Martha Fisher knows more. She's also pointing to David Konow's deep backgrounder on Tron for Tom's Hardware Guide.

For Time, Tim Padgett gets Mel Gibson talking - at length - about Apocalypto. Via Jeffrey Overstreet.

X has news of Hong Sang-soo's next one at Twitch.

Bradford Nordeen revisits a time when movies were made for adults.

Ray Young at Flickhead: "Never maudlin or convoluted, September 12th develops an authentic air of both mystery and sorrow."

Peter Nellhaus: "Considering the quality of some of the action films currently, or recently, in theaters, The Touch is as good, if not better."

Kevin Gilvear has a long talk with Christina Lindberg for DVD Times. Via Blake at Cinema Strikes Back.

Aidan Smith talks with Jane Birkin for the Scotsman. Via Ray Pride at Movie City Indie.

Is DIY filmmaking a myth? Sujewa Ekanayake and Caveh Zahedi discuss.

Lots of talk at ShoWest about how and where we'll be watching movies in the near future; reports from Leonard Klady and Gary Dretzka at Movie City News and, via MCN, Scott Bowles for USA Today. Also: A springtime release schedule from the New York Daily News.

Edward Jay Epstein in Slate: "The hand of Tokyo may not always be visible in the dazzling glitter of Hollywood, but it has enabled the industry to re-invent itself."

Dave Kehr: "Hollywood seems to be following the same strategy that served America so well in the Cold War: just outspend the bastards, and sooner or later, their system will collapse."

Universal's banned Anne Thompson. Nikki Finke finds out why while Eugene Hernandez comments: "The message sent by such a decree from a studio chief is quite clear: don't piss us off or we'll cut you off."

Snakes on a Plane needs your music.

New: Brand Hype, a critical resource on product placement in the movies.

Hitch and Truffaut Online listening tip #1. The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes #1, at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger....

Online listening tip #2. Friday's Leonard Lopate Show features Molly Haskell talking about TCM's Essentials series and Wim Wenders talking about Don't Come Knocking.

Online viewing tip #1. Simon Pegg talks about prepping for The Hot Fuzz. Via Todd at Twitch.

Online viewing tip #2. Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay has found Jim Jarmusch's video for The Raconteurs and an online fiddling around tip as well: Criticker, a "personalized film recommendation engine."

Posted by dwhudson at 2:53 PM | Comments (8)

Docs, 3/21.

Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitcross's The Road to Guantanamo will get a US distributor after all: Roadside Attractions. Eugene Hernandez has the full story at indieWIRE.

In the Year of the Pig "The unearthing of Emile De Antonio's ever-more-relevant work continues with In the Year of the Pig (1968), one of the most devastating anti-imperialist films of its era," writes Travis Miles at Stop Smiling, following a rave for Point of Order!: "Working with stock footage for the first time, de Antonio is clearly interested less in its latent polemical effect than in its sheer power to fascinate and entertain."

Sudhir Muralidhar for the American Prospect: "If the Iraq War has demonstrated the futility of exporting American-style democracy across the world by force, Our Brand Is Crisis suggests that fancy political messaging, sophisticated polling, and technocratic policies ain't gonna cut it either." Much more from Chuck Tryon.

Daniel Nemet-Nejat interviews Liz Mermin, director of The Beauty Academy of Kabul. Jessica Winter reviews the film as well as Mardi Gras: Made in China for the Voice.

The Future of Food is "one of the most informative and practical documentaries I saw last year," writes Doug Cummings.

At Alternet, Audrey Bilger talks with Grace Lee about The Grace Lee Project.

At Flickhead, Ray Young reviews Caught in the Headlights.

"Is it just coincidence that three compelling documentaries about said fallen artists [Roky Erickson, Daniel Johnston and Townes Van Zandt] are floating around the ether right now?" asks Anthony Kaufman.

Aiming to make a doc yourself? Cyndi Greening compiles a proposal package.

Online viewing tip. Greg Allen points to a six-minute preview for Chinese Farmers in the Gamedom. Related: David Barboza's piece on the phenom for the New York Times.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:28 PM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 3/21.

Charles Masters for the Hollywood Reporter: "With a month to go before the Festival de Cannes lineup is unveiled, dozens of films have yet to be seen by selectors, but some certainties about what will be screening on the Croisette have emerged." Among the likelies:

Marie Antoinette

"Another raft of titles look certain for inclusion," continues Masters, "though for which section of the festival's various options remains in the balance." Examples:

Pan's Labyrinth

With the full lineup to be announced on April 20 (the fest itself runs May 17 through 28), the only formally confirmed titles so far are festival-opener The Da Vinci Code; Un Certain Regard-opener Paris, je t'aime; screening in the Critics' Week section, Jean-Christophe Klotz's doc, Return to Kigali; and, in the Directors' Fortnight, Julian Goldberger's The Hawk is Dying.

Brian Darr carries on previewing the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (through March 26). More at SF360 and from Jeffrey M Anderson at Cinematical.

SFIAAFF reviews at SFist:

The Achievers

Tobias Peterson wraps up his substantial SXSW Film Festival coverage at PopMatters; so, too, does Alison Willmore for the IFC Blog. And David Lowery has a one-fell-swoop massive roundup.

By way of Harry Knowles, Blake has the latest at Cinema Strikes Back on QT7 in April, a "best of" fest, and a review of Jennifer Kent's short, Monster, which screened at SXSW.

At indieWIRE:

L'Enfer

The European Independent Film Festival: March 25 and 26 in Paris.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert unveils the lineup for his Overlooked Film Festival (April 26 through 30). Via Movie City News.

First on the Moon New Directors/New Films (tomorrow through April 2): Dennis Lim introduces the Voice's generous package on the series. Also: Martha Fisher at Cinematical on First on the Moon and Texas. And don't forget Slant's big special on the series.

With just a week left in the National Film Theatre's Krzysztof Kieslowski season, Edward Lamberti wonders, "[W]hen he died, did he take the age of the director with him?" Also in Kamera: Antonio Pasolini on The Double Life of Veronique.

Mark Pfeiffer's been filing dispatches from the Cleveland International Film Festival (through March 26).

Queer as Film: Classic Gay & Lesbian Movie Posters is an exhibition at the Posteritati Gallery in NYC running from March 28 through April 30 (though not yet online).

The Nashville Film Festival (April 20 through 26) has announced its lineup.

The Reeler's got more Tribeca titles.

Looking way ahead: The San Francisco International Festival of Short Films runs from August 10 through 12; looking not so far ahead: the deadlines for submissions range from the end of March to the end of June.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:49 PM

March 20, 2006

Austin Dispatch. 3.

After a strange and exhausting odyssey (long story), I'm finally back in Berlin and I'll have a quick SXSW Film Festival wrap-up of my own soon, but in the meantime, Jonathan Marlow gives us what we really want in a recap: the bottom line on a wide range of films, succinct and perceptive as ever.

SXSW 06 Nothing succeeds like success, they say, and success couldn't be more deserved for Matt Dentler and company. The festival displayed unprecedented growth in both audience size and film quality at the twentieth SXSW (although the film festival, which appeared later, celebrated lucky number thirteen). While the event technically "ended" on Tuesday with the presentation of awards and a closing night party, the screenings continued through Saturday with several premieres surfacing over the remainder of the week (including a sneak of A Scanner Darkly, adapted from the novel-of-the-same-name by Philip K. Dick).

With the festival over, this recap of only a few of the many movies that were presented throughout Austin over the previous ten days serves as a "see this, or don't, whenever and wherever these films are presented at a screen near you." Seven documentaries, seven narrative films (plus two I failed to see) and seven shorts, listed appropriately by section in alphabetical order.

Documentaries

Al Franken: God Spoke Al Franken: God Spoke
If you like Al Franken, you'll love this movie. While I have no attraction for canned comments of this sort, the documentary entirely redeems such a clichéd phrase since it frankly portrays Franken as quick-witted and charming, taking any mild feelings you might have for the man to an entirely new level of appreciation (unless you're a humorless conservative, not unlike several of the folks he belittles in the film). See also the related Chris Hegedus/Nick Doob piece for the First Amendment Project.

Danielson: A Family Movie
The music of Daniel Smith and "Familie" is an acquired taste, perhaps a bit bitter at first but grows more appealing with time, not unlike this captivating film which dutifully documents the Danielsonship's uncharacteristic pathway to success. In what music cocoon did I find myself hiding to only discover Sufjan Stevens through this documentary?

Darkon
Imagine medieval fantasy role-playing as a full-contact sport. On paper, it might not seem particularly interesting but Darkon is perhaps the most exhilarating fun that you'll have at a non-fiction film this year. It could even make LARP a household word and propel Skip Lipman into his destiny as an action hero in Hollywood's inevitable adaptation of Atari Adventure.

Fired!
In a series of staged readings, now a book and a major motion picture, Annabelle Gurwitch displays a lovely set of outfits, a wonderful sense of humor and a compelling frown-upside-down story where she exorcises her traumatic experience of getting fired (by Woody Allen, no less) into an opportunity for other folks (Fred Willard, Illeana Douglas and Andy Dick among them) to tell their own hilarious tales of humiliation.

Maxed Out Maxed Out
The pyramid which allows massive personal credit card debt to propel the economy forward while the protections for individual consumers are eroded (and the rights of credit issuers are expanded) should concern everyone in this country. The whole scheme could come crashing down around us and most of the folks in this country will likely remain in denial to the very end. Provided some bold distributor snaps this picture up, the film could become a call-to-arms. Admittedly, seeing this documentary the same week that the US debt ceiling was raised added yet another layer of depression to an already disturbing film.

Shadow Company
Whenever mention is made of "private contractors" dying in Iraq, the press is really speaking of non-governmental military personnel - mercenaries, for lack of a better word. Shadow Company tells the fascinating history of these hired guns and the ever-increasing use in armed conflicts around the world.

The Treasures of Long Gone John
It's a wonder that this documentary didn't already exist. Thankfully, Gregg Gibbs has remedied the problem, filming the ambitious anti-mogul of Sympathy for the Record Industry, Long Gone John, and chronicling the label's hundreds of record releases and the thousands of objects, paintings and otherwise (by the likes of Todd Schorr, Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia), that fill his home. Would fit nicely in a double-feature with the similarly eccentric Mau Mau Sex Sex...

Narrative Features

Americanese
Eric Byler's sophomore effort occupies a similar realm to his debut, Charlotte Sometimes. Unlike most independent dramas, Byler allows the actors the space to fully occupy their roles, creating a world where the characters seem to exist before the film begins and continues long after the film ends. As such, his films are more mature than nearly anyone else currently working in this country. If his films were photographed by Christopher Doyle and were subtitled, the cineastes would be all over them. For now, it is our little secret. But not for long.

The Cassidy Kids
As much as I enjoyed Bryan Poyser's script (reworked from pre-existing material) for this engaging film, I only wish that it had landed in the hands of a more adept director. It fails in far too many places to shake the parameters of its budget or the inexperience of its crew. The performances of Kadeem Hardison and Tiger Darrow are remarkable, however. Given that the film occupies three realms - a fictional television program, the "real life" that the program was based on and the present day reunion of the real people upon which the television program was based - it seems a natural for this movie to be made into a television show. Sometimes the most ridiculous ideas are the ones that truly work.

Don't Come Knocking Don't Come Knocking
While it falls miles away from his greatest work, Wenders's latest is considerably better than his last effort, Land of Plenty. In fact, I could even claim to like it. Parts of it. The film's roots began in Butte, Montana, many years ago and the city is certainly the star around which the tale turns. An implausible series of events lead to a few forceful scenes, one in particular between husband-and-wife team Sam Shepard, who also co-wrote the script, and Jessica Lange.

Eve & the Fire Horse
I have a bias against coming-of-age films. I know this about myself and, therein, anything that I say about this film is colored through my own considerable dislikes. I've talked to plenty of folks that adore this film. I abhor it.

Heavens Fall
Anyone familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird knows the basic story of the "Scottsboro Boys" (greatly simplified to artistic effect in the Harper Lee novel). Director Terry Green takes the event and crafts an historical drama that never feels much more than conventional in its execution. Timothy Hutton, as always, is exceptional as "big city" lawyer Samuel Leibowitz; the actor brought along a number of Nero Wolfe cast-mates to round out the proceedings. David Strathairn, in two films at the festival, makes much of a small part. A film, such as this, that fails to realize its potential is more instructive than a film that is merely good-but-not-great.

The Last Romantic
This latest in a long line of brother directors (I can count the sister directors on one hand, unfortunately); the Nees (who wrote, directed, one stars) make a rather good comedic phantasmagoria about an inept would-be poet and the series of oddballs that he encounters in New York, including a series of lovely women. Is every lady in Manhattan a model? Over the years, I've seen a number of films not unlike this at SXSW. Ideally, this one will have a life at many other festivals ahead.

Motorcycle
The director failed to give me a promised disc of his film. As gathered from the trailer, the titular object is passed-along from one character to another and the usual hijinks result. Filmed ages ago in Austin, the movie evidently features an exceptional cameo by legendary area musician Seth Whitney.

A Prairie Home Companion
I didn't see it. Why am I mentioning yet another film that I didn't even watch? Because I definitely want to see it, thanks to my late grandmother's passion for Garrison Keillor (we attended a live broadcast together about a decade ago) and my fondness for overlapping dialogue. Besides, this is a chance to plug the fact that it will be the closing film at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

V for Vendetta
This might well be the most subversive film to come out of Hollywood in quite some time. Natalie Portman breathes life into an otherwise hollow character, proving (despite her turn as that Amidala character) that she is actually skilled, and Hugo Weaving brings compassion to a role that never has a face (but a rather fixed-expressive mask). It is difficult to isolate the story into its humble beginnings as a parallel to Thatcher's England since the script clearly evokes comparisons with contemporary issues - whether it's the situation in Iraq, the current state of politics in the US and the UK or even hinting at the personal lives of the filmmakers themselves. It isn't really possible to watch a film of this sort and put these issues out of your mind. Indeed, you wouldn't want to. As a whole, the experience is richer with all of these lingering details and, without a doubt, more thought-provoking than all of the Matrix films put together.

Short Films

Unfortunately, I didn't see any of the animated of experimental programs, thus missing new works by David Russo, Chel White, Deco Dawson, Emily Hubley or Reynold Reynolds. In fact, many of these films were either caught at screenings at other festivals or the filmmakers were kind enough to send me a copy directly. In gratitude for their efforts, a few words about these magnificent seven (or rather, at least three are worthy of such praise, but you'll have to read on to discern which is which).

A Bee and a Cigarette A Bee and a Cigarette
Bob Odenkirk is always able to get believable performances out of his young actors, a remarkable feat when they're placed in outrageous situations - such as getting stung by a bee while stepping barefoot on a lit cigarette. I still look forward to seeing his Pity Card (about a first date at a Holocaust museum) with a pair of the same bumbling characters, Derek & Simon.

First Date
An uncompromising story for a short, involving an aggressive ex-con and his attempts to hook-up with a young man that he met in an online chat-room. The film has everything going against it, yet director Gary Huggins miraculously make it work thanks, in no small part, to the naturalistic performance of Santiago Vasquez.

Heavy Soul Heavy Soul
Oren Shai knows how to draw attention to a film. First, by sending a somewhat insulting email (if taken seriously); then, by mailing an elaborate package to my office designed to look like a mental patient's hospital records. I wasn't prepared to like it (granted, when folks usually go to this much work it is to compensate for something lacking in the film). However, it is an accomplished, stylish, well-made short with a star-turn by Sally Conway.

Hiro
Another odd one, in this instance a bit forced but polished in its chance encounter between an exotic bug collector and a woman-on-the-run. It all wraps-up a bit too conveniently but it is lovely to look at.

Junior! The Wendy's Guy
It would be a shame if this film was merely considered a regional work. The subject, Junior, is the fastest register man in the southwest. Although he's a semi-cult figure at the University of Texas in Austin, his story would be of interest to audiences everywhere. It merely goes to prove that we should all take pride in whatever we do.

Pretty Kitty
Another one-joke short, of which I see dozens every year, although this one fails to include a joke.

Redemptitude
Austin's own Nathan and David Zellner visit the Outback (of Australia, by way of Texas) and, along the way, discover spiritual service to the Lord, of the "turn the other cheek" variety. Somebody give these guys money to make another feature.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:45 AM | Comments (1)

March 16, 2006

SFIAAFF. Preview.

Like the title of the entry says... take it away, Hannah Eaves.

SFIAAFF There was a seemingly solid wall of young, excited people at 111 Minna St. for the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival Launch Party last month. It was late, but it was still happening. There weren't any free drinks. But it was still happening. Young hipsters and film geeks like indieFEST, older fashionistas like SFIFF, and all kinds of young people, apparently, love SFIAAFF.

SFIAAFF, running from March 16 to 26 at a host of venues around the Bay Area, is the largest Asian American film festival in the country, and this year there are a record-breaking 12 narrative features and 10 documentaries screening in competition, all by or about Asian Americans or Canadians (technically Americans, too, but nevermind). What's really important about this festival is the competition; many of the films coming from Asia are often just as likely to turn up at the usual big city international fests. But it used to be very difficult to get together a quality quorum of films by Asian American filmmakers - there just weren't as many out there.

Eve & the Fire Horse The slate this year is causing a lot of buzz, mostly because many of the films screening in competition have just won awards elsewhere. Narrative feature Eve and the Fire Horse (screenings) and doc Dear Pyongyang (screenings) both picked up Special Jury Prizes at Sundance. The filmmaker couple behind Abduction (screenings), Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim (with Jane Campion as Executive Producer) are being very close chested with their Slamdance Audience Award winning documentary - Jonathan Marlow was one of the few lucky enough to catch it. There's been a bit of talk about the Independent Spirit Awards' recent veering off towards so-called mainstream fare (although, according to Pat Buchanan on last week's McLaughlin Group, the fact that Brokeback Mountain was even nominated for an Academy Award, followed by the ceremony's low ratings, shows that Hollywood is, as usual, "out of touch with mainstream America"). The Independent Spirits still have their John Cassavetes Award, though, for the best feature made for under $500,000, which went to SFIAAFF competitor Conventioneers (screenings). Opening Night feature, Eric Byler's AMERICANese (screenings; Joan Chen fans note this one down) won SXSW's Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and a Jury Award for Outstanding Ensemble Cast.

Eve and the Fire Horse is undoubtedly going to be a crowd pleaser. Nine-year-old Eve and her sister Karena must reconcile their own family's Chinese Buddhist traditions with the Catholic Canadian life surrounding them. Eve looks great, and its heart is in the right place, but the quirkiness of it all starts feeling a bit too treacley by the halfway mark. If a child's innocent observation of the magical, odd and occasionally sad world around her - mixed in with occasional flights of fantasy (a dancing goddess, levitation, etc) - is your thing, and it has been for many people I've spoken with who think Eve is a perfect delight, this is for you. If you're prone to rolling-of-the-eyes, then perhaps not.

Dear Pyongyang Dear Pyongyang is Eve's exact opposite. Director Yonghi Yang wields a shaky camera to deliver some truly ugly (visually, and occasionally emotionally) confrontational conversations with her Korean father - it's what programmers like to euphemize as "raw." And raw it is. But unlike Eve, Pyongyang puts you off at first, to bring you in at the middle, and then crush you like the old Kids in the Hall skit by the end. Yang's father is from South Korea, but he has always aligned himself with the North. After having moved his family to Japan to work at promoting ethnic Korean schooling there, he sent his three young Japanese-born sons back to North Korea during the repatriation movement. Thirty years have passed, and Yang has been unable to reconcile her love for her father with his steadfast loyalty to the fatherland. Together they journey to visit the sons who are now trapped in North Korea, taking a surreal ferry ride over the sea and into the propagandistic fantasyland that is contemporary North Korea. This is when the film really kicks into high gear. It provides a brief and rare glimpse into a country that's often in the forefront of our thinking, yet remains fuzzy to us in any real sense. If you're worried about the dubious sanity of Kim Jong Il, Dear Pyongyang will only reinforce your gape jawed-ness. By the time that trip begins, a significant way into the movie, Yang may have already lost most of her audience. But those who have given her a chance will likely get drawn in at this point, hopefully make the leap with Yang into her father's aching conscience.

Conventioneers In a broad sense, Conventioneers takes its cues from Haskell Wexler's 1968 touchstone, Medium Cool. Filmed clandestinely on the streets (and cafés, hotel rooms and convention centers) of New York during the 2004 Republican National Convention, it's pushing another reference to say "Romeo and Juliet story," but that's what it is - only instead of swallowing bitter poison, the protagonists cop a bitter pill. In town for the convention, married Texas Republican Dave looks up his old Dartmouth classmate Leah, who is in the process of building coffins for the big demonstration. Old attractions erupt and while Dave leans towards rethinking things, Leah's less willing. Conventioneers does draw on a few stereotypes (Dave's wife is not too likeable), but remains engaging to the end. The performances are all strong, often a worry in no-time no-budget features, and there is enough soap opera tension to fuel the more philosophical moments. In a surprise end, though (watch for a spoiler here), the filmmakers can't help it, and all Republicans do turn out to be assholes, after all. C'mon, you can only take fiction so far!

Finally, something should be said about local effort Colma: The Musical (screenings). It's an impressively slick musical set in the San Francisco area suburb of Colma, known mostly for being the place where people get buried (literally). Three smartass theater geeks struggle in the post-high school world. Unfortunately, it does feel a bit like a film three clever high school students might make, just after graduating. It's hard to be negative without feeling guilty, though, because in the end Colma's just too darn likeable - fun, funny and nicely delivered. The music's quite good, in a contemporary band way, though it gets a little repetitive. Be warned, you might find yourself cringing as you remember your own high school ways.

There are some repertory highlights, too. The Pacific Film Archive is hosting a small sidebar, Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film (Part II). All classics from the 70s, screening are Clans of Intrigue, The Boxer from Shantung, King Boxer and the immaculately titled Dirty Ho, from master Lau Kar-leung.

James Shigeta Special guest James Shigeta will be in town for a screening of Sam Fuller's The Crimson Kimono, which is just one film in a sidebar dedicated to the handsome actor, perhaps the only Asian man ever groomed to be a Hollywood star.

It's a big festival and this may be a long preview, but it's only a small glimpse of all that's going on. Panels, guests, Directions in Sound, all are worth checking out. If the launch party is anything to go by, you should get your tickets early.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:31 PM | Comments (9)

Shorts, 3/17.

Afro Promo "More than by chance than design, this February issue of Offscreen coincides nicely with Black History Month, by presenting three pieces which, to varying degree, look at various aspects of African American popular culture." Yes, February's long past, but the issue's just up now.

Sara Vilkomerson may have thought she'd be talking to Spike Lee about Inside Man, but instead gets much livelier copy on his Katrina doc, When the Levees Broke, and the state of things in general. Also in the New York Observer: Scott Eyman reviews Tullio Kezich's Federico Fellini: His Life and Work. Related: Lucinda Evans for the Guardian on the destruction of Fellini's villa, which the mayor of Fregene calls "a historic mistake."

"Apropos of nothing but affection," Matt Zoller Seitz offers a few passages from Ray Carney's Cassavetes on Cassavetes.

Then, in the New York Press:

V for Vendetta

Volver Latest "Film Focus" at Cineuropa: Pedro Almodóvar's Volver.

At the AV Club, Nathan Rabin interviews Robert Towne and Keith Phipps lists "14 Exceptionally Memorable Movie Robots."

Back in the LA Weekly, Foundas talks with Claire Denis about The Intruder.

Campaspe and her commentators decide you must be of a certain vintage to fully appreciated Dodsworth.

Dante A Ciampaglia: "[Thomas] Edison cannot be judged as an artist. He never created anything for art's sake." Also in PopMatters: Mark H Harris's amusing riff on wiggas and Marco Lanzagorta on a slew of recent soundtracks.

In the New York Times: Laura Kern on Beautiful City, Jeannette Catsoulis on Hate Crime and Sharon Waxman on the industry's thoughts on the decline in moviegoing. More from ShoWest from Gary Dretzka at Movie City News and, nicely referencing A Prairie Home Companion, Anne Thompson.

More SXSW reviews at Cinematical: Jette Kernion on A Scanner Darkly and Karina Longworth on Old Joy.

The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre Via Ed Champion, Bee Wilson on Stephen Youngkin's The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre.

Anthony Kaufman points to James Christopher's piece in the Times of London on Sophie Fiennes's potentially intriguing made-for-TV doc, Artshock: The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, featuring Slavoj Zizek.

"Marshall McLuhan should have been living at this hour." For the Times Literary Supplement, Paul Barker reviews Marshall McLuhan Unbound: "None of the essays will, or did, set the world on fire, but they demonstrate that nothing McLuhan said sprang out of nowhere." Somewhat related: Nick Rombes: "Today, mass culture is not ephemeral, but a permanent fact. Theory has become yet another function of the database."

Jürgen Fauth & Marcy Dermansky list their top ten movies about writers.

Lance Mannion talks with Chris Hansen about The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah.

Solvej Schou reports for the AP on the George Clooney and Arianna Huffington scuffle.

"The time has come to take William Shatner seriously," argues Jonathan Kiefer in Maisonneuve.

Online viewing tip. Jonathan Glazer's video for Massive Attack's "Live With Me," Glazer's first music video in six years. Via Ben at the Whine Colored Sea.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:26 PM | Comments (1)

SXSW Elsewhere. 3.

SXSW Film 06 "SXSW prides itself on opposing whatever the supposed dominant paradigms of the entertainment industry are, and both the music and film festivals have been accused of creating a cultural bubble, only tangentially connected to America. This year, though, you could feel a note ranging from concern to rage in many of the films and conversations here - a worry and anger also felt in Hollywood, which wound up giving its biggest award to a preachy little movie about race relations." Andrew O'Hehir's latest roundup for Salon covers OilCrash (screenings), Maxed Out (screenings), 51 Birch Street (screenings), The Life of Reilly (screenings), Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid of the Future (screenings), Fired! (screenings) and, well, Parker Posey.

"What Have We Seen?" asks the Austin Chronicle. Rhetorically, as the answer follows immediately: "Well, quite a lot, actually." Brief reviews follow. Also: Kimberley Jones on SXSW Film Festival award-winner AMERICANese (no more screenings, I'm afraid).

A Scanner Darkly At Reverse Shot, robbiefreeling finds A Scanner Darkly "one of the least audience-friendly films I've seen come from a major director for quite some time." Nonetheless: "Most revelatory is how Linklater's talkative, free-associative style, which is usually confined to restricted time narratives (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia, Before Sunrise and Sunset, Tape, Waking Life), works as a wonderful approximation of Dick’s head-on dives into sci-fi stream of consciousness."

Why mention it? Because Scanner was screened yesterday afternoon to the lucky first 1500 or so to arrive early enough - way early enough - to make it into the Paramount Theater. Unfortunately, I was among those left outside; Ami Kealoha made it, though (as did others we'll be hearing from soon), and blogs the event briefly at Cool Hunting.

More SXSW reviews:

Meta-riffic! Cyndi Greening's blogged our blogging panel.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 PM

Fests and events, 3/16.

Citizen Dog Wisit Sasanatieng's Citizen Dog sets off a cascade of memories and associations in Chuck Stephens (and understandably so, since he's actually in it) and the piece that explains how he wound up in Thailand in the first place serves as the centerpiece in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's package on the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (through March 26). Also: the staff spotlights five more films, Cheryl Eddy previews the docs and Kimberly Chun meets Vu T Thu Ha, director of Kieu.

Michael Guillen interviews Jeff Adachi, writer, producer and director of The Slanted Screen.

Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times: "The Other Venice Film Festival, differentiating itself from the one in Italy, calls itself a community event and strives to personify the eclectic beach town in which it takes place. Art, music and an opening tribute to Roger Corman, who will receive the festival's Local Maverick Award, will accompany the four days of screenings beginning tonight." Also, Kevin Thomas on Louis Malle's Phantom of India.

Boston Underground Film Festival For the Boston Phoenix, Peter Keough previews the Boston Underground Film Festival, March 22 through 26.

An exhibition on Johnnie To's photographs will be featured at this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival andn Grady Hendrix has found samples.

The Reeler spotlights yet more Tribeca titles.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:45 PM

March 15, 2006

Tribeca. Competition lineup.

Tribeca My, how it's grown in five short years. The Tribeca Film Festival (April 25 through May 7) has announced that it'll be featuring 37 world premieres from eleven countries in competition. All in all, 169 features and 99 shorts will be screened (honed down from a total of 4100 submissions).

Below the jump, the competition lineup, with synopses cut-n-paste directly from the press release, with links where possible:

International Narrative Feature Competition

  • The Architect, directed and written by Matt Tauber (USA) - World Premiere. A Magnolia Pictures Release Based on Scottish playwright David Greig's The Architect, Tauber's debut feature pits an architect (Anthony LaPaglia) against a female community resident who lives in a dangerous housing project that he designed. By contrasting two Chicago families in divergent economic circumstances, The Architect ably explores political, sexual, and class issues. Also starring Isabella Rossellini.

  • Backstage, directed by Emmanuelle Bercot, written by Bercot and Jérôme Tonnerre. (France) - US Premiere. An adolescent groupie (Isild Le Besco) zeroes in on her Blondie-like idol (Emmanuelle Seigner) after the singer chances to cross her orbit on a publicity tour. Gradually their lives intertwine as, with near-operatic intensity, the film delves into the emotional dependency on both sides of celebrity culture.

  • Blessed By Fire (Iluminados por el Fuego), directed by Tristán Bauer, co-written by Bauer, Edgardo Esteban, Gustavo Romero Borri, and Miguel Bonasso  (Argentina/Spain) - North American Premiere. A former infantry mate's overdose sparks wartime memories for Esteban, who tries to reconcile his life today with the part of him that died along with his ideals and comrades in the war for the Falkland Islands. The harrowing account from Argentine director Bauer, based on a memoir, reminds us that survivors keep fighting long after leaving the battlefield.

  • Brasilia 18%, directed and written by Nelson Pereira dos Santos (Brazil) - International Premiere.  A star medical examiner is called to Brasilia, the administrative capital of Brazil, to confirm the identity of a beautiful, young congressional aide's dead body. But his scientific rigor soon leads him to details of a multi-layered political scandal. This wild thriller by Cinema Novo pioneer Nelson Pereira dos Santos is a hallucinatory meditation on governmental corruption.

  • Choking Man, directed and written by Steve Barron (USA) - World Premiere. The social anxiety of a morbidly shy Ecuadorian dishwasher working in a Queens diner provides the psychological engine that powers this intense blend of drama and magical realism from famed music video director Steve Barron. Newcomer Octavio Gómez Berríos gives a quietly effective performance in the "title" role. Also starring Mandy Patinkin.

  • Colour Me Kubrick, directed by Brian Cook, written by Anthony Frewin (UK, France) - International Premiere. John Malkovich gives a hilarious tour-de-force as Alan Conway, a conman who successfully passed himself off as the famed and notoriously reclusive director for the last decade or so of the filmmaker's life. Combining breathtaking chutzpah undeterred by a barely fleeting knowledge of Kubrick's work, Malkovich's Conway switches accents, costumes and mannerisms with sly delight.

  • The Free Will (Der Freie Wille), directed by Matthias Glasner, written by Glasner, Judith Angerbauer, and Jürgen Vogel (Germany) - North American Premiere. This sometimes shockingly graphic German film delves into the dark and complex world of Theo, a convicted rapist released from prison and readjusting to civilian life. The path he follows is rarely straight, and when he makes an attempt at a romantic relationship, the film expands into a compelling, multi-layered exploration of uncharted psychological territory.

  • Holiday Makers (Ucastnici Zajezdu), directed by Jiri Vejdelek, written by Vejdelek and Michal Viewegh (Czech Republic) - World Premiere. A vacation based on a tour package to a seaside hotel in Croatia turns into a wild party when an eclectic mix of Czech tourists arrive by bus at the hotel. Slapstick humor and heartwarming moments abound in this classic Czech style comedy.

  • Land of the Blind, directed and written by Robert Edwards (UK) - A Bauer Martinez Release. "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton's dictum applies neatly to this compelling, satirical political drama. Ralph Fiennes stars as a soldier who switches sides to help dissident political prisoner Donald Sutherland overthrow a brutal dictator. But will power still manage to trump morality?

  • Love for Share (Berbagi Suami), directed and written by Nia Dinata (Indonesia) - International Premiere. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and polygamy is a deeply rooted and controversial tradition. This film addresses the tradition and its malcontents by interweaving the stories of three very different women, each of whom has developed her own living response to polygamy.

  • Men at Work (Kargaran Mashgoul-e Karand), directed and written by Mani Haghighi (Iran) - North American Premiere. This subtle and comic political allegory focuses on four middle-class guys who pile into their car for a ski weekend (already a jolt to Western expectations about Iranian movies). A brief stop at a picturesque vista leads to their chance discovery of a prominent rock formation it seems would be oh so easy to tip over, but...

  • The Mist in the Palm Trees (La Niebla en las Palmeras), directed by Carlos Molinero and Lola Salvador, written by Molinero and Salvador Maldonado (Spain) - International Premiere. A wealth of extraordinary images culled from archives in Cuba, France, Germany, Spain, and the U.S. trace a Spanish photographer's involvement in the Manhattan Project. At the same time, the film movingly demonstrates how photographs substitute for memories, how memories substitute for love, how war destroys memory, and how science becomes a double-edged weapon.

  • A Perfect Day, directed and written by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige (France, Lebanon, Germany) - US Premiere. In this portrait of a character and a society, Malek and his mother struggle with an insidious inertia 15 years after the Lebanese civil war in which thousands disappeared, including Malek's father. The title and situation recall the poignant optimism of Lou Reed's classic song, and the film's own award-winning original music is unforgettable.

  • Shoot the Messenger, directed by Ngozi Onwurah, written by Sharon Foster (UK) - International Premiere. Joe, a successful but naive black man, quits his job and becomes a teacher. But when his "enforced education" methods get him fired, his rage towards the black community almost drives him insane. Eventually, he encounters a group of people who help him heal his broken heart and teach him to love and accept the very individuals who frustrate and hurt him the most.

  • The TV Set, directed and written by Jake Kasdan (USA) - World Premiere. Mike Klein has just sold his pilot to a network. Little does he know that, once it passes through the hands of one incompetent network executive after another, it may no longer bear any resemblance to his original concept. Jake Kasdan's comic look at the world of network television development stars Sigourney Weaver and David Duchovny.

  • Two Players from the Bench (Dva Igra?a S Klupe), directed and written by Dejan Šorak (Croatia) - International Premiere. A Serb and a Croat, who share only a mutual loathing for each other and a love for volleyball, find themselves kidnapped together and under severe pressure to deliver false testimony before the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. A typically Balkan black comedy with a sardonic edge.

  • The Yacoubian Building (Omaret Yacoubian), directed by Marwan Hamed, written by Wahid Hamed (Egypt) - North American Premiere. A record budget, an all-star cast, a script based on a best-seller: Most 28-year-old novices aren't handed this kind of project, especially in Egypt, where the novel's subjects-government corruption, Islamic fundamentalism, homosexuality-are taboo onscreen. But the gamble pays off in this sprawling, compelling, and watchable epic set in a downtown Cairo building that's a symbol of modern Egypt.

International Documentary Feature Competition

  • 37 Uses for a Dead Sheep, directed by Ben Hopkins (UK) - North American Premiere. To preserve their culture, the Pamir Kirghiz people have migrated across Central Asia from the USSR to China to Afghanistan to Pakistan and finally to remote eastern Turkey, but now they face the most serious threat to their traditions, globalization. Using a variety of techniques, this fascinating, at times comic doc, is as enjoyable as it is informative.

  • The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq, directed by Andrew Berends (USA, Iraq) - North American Premiere. A LifeSize Entertainment & Releasing Release. Thoughts of revenge are tempered by more practical concerns in The Blood of My Brother, which shows the war in Iraq from the perspective of an Iraqi family grieving the loss of a son who was killed by an American patrol as he stood guard at a mosque.

  • Blue Blood, directed by Stevan Riley (UK) - World Premiere. The boxing film is hit with a fierce uppercut in this clever, genre-tweaking documentary about the training regimen and sparring contests of Oxford University students who step out of the ivory tower and into the boxing ring to settle matters with their Cambridge rivals. In underlining the freedom to not care about failing, or about what other people think, Blue Blood paints a winning portrait of the spirit of the underdog.

  • The Bridge, directed by Eric Steel (USA) - World Premiere. In this bold and thought-provoking documentary about suicide and its complex aftermath, Steel spends from dusk until dawn filming the Golden Gate Bridge everyday for a year, capturing nearly two dozen suicides that occurred in 2004. Intercut with these frightening leaps are interviews with the family and friends of the deceased.

  • Dear Father, Quiet, We're Shooting... (Avi Hayakar, Sheket yorim...), Directed by David Benchetrit and written by Benchetrit and Senyora Bar David (Israel) - North American Premiere. When war crimes are carried out under orders from officers, military commanders, and political leaders who is responsible? This film allows former members of the Israeli Defense Forces-now conscientious objectors-to recount their experiences in both Lebanon and Palestine, and to question the limits of state power.

  • The Dignity of the Nobodies (La Dignidad de los Nadies), directed by Fernando E Solanas - US Premiere. Following his analysis in A Social Genocide (TFF 2004) of globalization's role in Argentina's economic disaster, this master of the social documentary takes a more optimistic stance here. By celebrating the small, daily victories of thousands of "nobodies," he shows that individual and collective acts might be able to change the world after all.

  • East of Paradise, directed by Lech Kowalski (France, USA) - North American Premiere. Underground documentarian and TFF vet Kowalski completes his Wild Wild East trilogy with East of Paradise, in which he attempts to draw a difficult parallel between his mother's post-WWII tenure in a Siberian gulag and his own stint of pornography and hard drugs in 70s New York City. In English and Polish.

  • From Dust, directed by Dhruv Dhawan (Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates) - International Premiere. Filmed in post-tsunami Sri Lanka, From Dust follows two survivors and an aid worker, who face a new Sri Lankan law restricting the rebuilding of homes. This sensitive and hard-hitting documentary asks why a natural disaster can create opportunities for some and suffering for others. In English and Sinhala.

  • Jesus Camp, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (USA) - World Premiere. The makers of Boys of Baraka turn their cameras on an evangelical Christian camp of rare devotion. With unprecedented access, the children and parents show how their faith dictates everything from their daily lives to politics. This fascinating doc about a rarely seen world where faith trumps everything else is sure to provoke debate.

  • Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, directed by Stanley Nelson, written by Marcia Smith (USA, Mexico) - World Premiere. Featuring never-before-seen footage, Nelson delivers a startling new look at the Peoples Temple, headed by preacher Jim Jones who, in 1978, led more than 900 members to Guyana, where he orchestrated a mass suicide via tainted punch. You may think you know the story, but Nelson uncovers fresh information that will leave you spellbound.

  • MAQUILAPOLIS: City of factories, directed by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre (USA, Mexico) - North American Premiere. Just over the border in Mexico is an area peppered with maquiladoras: massive sweatshops often owned by the world's largest multinational corporations. Carmen and Lourdes work at maquiladoras in Tijuana, and it is there that they try to balance the struggle for survival with their own radicalization in this hard-hitting and ultra-relevant documentary.

  • The Play (Oyun), directed by Pelin Esmer (Turkey) - North American Premiere. When nine peasant women from a mountain village in southern Turkey decide to write and perform a play based on their life stories, aspects of their personalities emerge that they never knew existed. Esmer's documentary observes the creative stages leading up to the production of the play, and shows us how nine subtly but significantly different women emerge after its staging.

  • Shadow of Afghanistan, directed by Suzanne Bauman and Jim Burroughs (USA) - World Premiere. The first in-depth look at the tragic history of this war-torn land and its relationship to today's headlines. The people responsible for this film, one of them a journalist who died in the effort, did their homework, put their lives on the line, and uncovered much of the complex truth about decades of betrayal.

  • Sounds of Silence (Sot-e Sokut), directed by Amir Hamz and Mark Lazarz (Iran, UK, Germany) - World Premiere. In Iran, where half the population is under 30, Western music is banned and the solo female voice has not been heard singing in public since the Revolution. But as this films reveals, young men and women in burgeoning underground bands are defying the system by using the Internet to get their music heard. In Farsi.

  • The War Tapes, directed by Deborah Scranton (USA) - World Premiere. Since Homer's time, artists have struggled with the challenge of how to describe the experience of war. Called up for service in Iraq, several members of the National Guard were given digital video cameras. This astonishing film, edited from their footage, provides an unimaginably vivid perspective on an extremely complex and troubled conflict.

  • Voices of Bam, directed by Aliona van der Horst and Maasja Ooms (Netherlands) - US Premiere. The earthquake that struck the ancient city of Bam in December 2003 killed over 43,000 people and left twice that number injured or homeless. This sensitive doc reveals the thoughts of the survivors and their eloquent hopes for the future, according them an all-too rare dignity. In Farsi.

NY, NY Narrative Feature Competition

  • Brother's Shadow, directed by Todd S Yellin, written by Yellin and Ivan Solomon (USA) - World Premiere. A family's black sheep (Scott Cohen), once imprisoned and now on parole, returns home to Brooklyn after 15 years. But his return home packs more surprises than he bargained for. His brother has died, his father (Judd Hirsch) and sister-in-law don't trust him, and the family business is on the brink of being sold.

  • East Broadway, directed by Fay Ann Lee, written by Fay Ann Lee and Karen Rousso (USA) - World Premiere. Grace is a Chinese American who longs to be a part of New York's high society. At a socialite event, she is mistaken for a Hong Kong heiress and meets her Prince Charming. Nothing is as it seems absorbing drama. What will happen to this Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight? Featuring Fay Ann Lee, Margaret Cho, Gale Harold, and Christine Baranski. In English and Cantonese.

  • Fifty Pills, directed by Theo Avgerinos, written by Matthew Perniciaro (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. College student Darren (Lou Taylor Pucci) has just lost his scholarship because of his partying roommate's antics. Now, in order to make his tuition payment, he needs to sell 50 tablets of Ecstasy-graciously supplied by his roommate-over the course of just one day. Avgerinos' directorial debut features Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars as Darren's girlfriend.

  • H.C.E., directed and written by Richard Sylvarnes (USA) - World Premiere. In this rapid-cut, experimental, tragicomedy collage of mythology, history, literature, and comic books, Sylvarnes bounces us through a fragmented, impressionistic history of the world from Napoleon to Jesus, from Socrates to Superman and back again with a 6-year-old girl as our guide.

  • Just Like the Son, directed and written by Morgan J Freeman (USA) - World Premiere. A petty thief's mentoring of an apparent orphan takes a profound turn when he kidnaps the boy from a foster home and drives him cross-country to his sister's house in Texas. This charming road movie logs plenty of poignant moments without cloying sentiment. Starring Mark Webber and Rosie Perez.

  • Kettle of Fish, directed and written by Claudia Meyers, (USA) - World Premiere. A lifelong bachelor (Matthew Modine) confronts his intimacy issues when he sublets his apartment to a fetching biologist (Gina Gershon). His heartsick fish and his wise best buddy are on hand to provide perspective in this winsome feature debut that will appeal to romantics of any species. Presented by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

  • Kiss Me Again, directed by William Tyler Smith, written by Smith and J.D. Hoxter (USA) - World Premiere. Kiss Me Again is a witty and provocative portrayal of a married couple that decides to test the boundaries of their relationship with a seductive Spanish woman. When an unlikely relationship ensues, all three are forced to rethink their definition of love. Starring Jeremy London, Katheryn Winnick, Darrell Hammond, Elisa Donovan, Mirelly Taylor, and Fred Armisen.

  • "Marvelous", directed and written by Siofra Campbell (USA) - World Premiere. A sharp and shrewd satire of the celebrity generation, Síofra Campbell's "Marvelous" chronicles the rapid rise and fall of Gwen as an unlikely celebrity "healer," and how her life and the lives of her sister and brother-in-law are slowly twisted, first into a publicity machine and then, unexpectedly, a cult. Starring Ewan Bremner, Martha Plimpton, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, and Annabella Sciorra.

  • Metro, directed and written by Adolfo Doring (USA) - World Premiere. Doring takes a rigorously observational approach to chronicling the relationships that a group of young, creative women form with one another over a period of months in New York City. By avoiding any trace of artificiality, he uncovers intimate character details that other films usually shy away from, making Metro truly unique.

  • New York Waiting, directed and written by Joachim Hedén (Sweden) - World Premiere. Hedén's debut film sensitively illuminates the effects of lovesickness and wanderlust. After Sidney sends his lost love a plane ticket and a letter, asking her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building, he unexpectedly meets a lovesick woman. Together they wander the streets of New York, lamenting their lost loves while secretly wondering if they're falling in love with each other. In English.

  • The Treatment, directed by Oren Rudavsky, written by Daniel Housman and Oren Rudavsky (USA) - World Premiere. Jake Singer is a frustrated, confused, and recently dumped New York schoolteacher who enters into therapy in an attempt to find guidance in his life. The treatment appears to be working, but when he suddenly falls in love with a beautiful widow, Jake is forced to battle his therapist's alarmingly strong influence. Starring Chris Eigeman, Ian Holm, and Famke Janssen.

  • A Very Serious Person, directed by Charles Busch, written by Busch and Carl Andress (USA) - World Premiere. Actor/writer/drag performer Charles Busch makes a disarmingly effortless transition from high camp to conventional comedy-drama with this sweet-natured coming-of-age tale about a showtunes- and old Hollywood-obsessed boy and his effete Danish mentor. The two bond and teach each other lessons about self-acceptance over the course of one magical summer on the Jersey Shore.

  • Windows, directed and written by Shoja Y Azari, (USA) - World Premiere. Azari weaves together a loosely-constructed narrative based on 10 choreographed, single-shot scenes framed by windows. Preceded by 25 Letters, Grahame Weinbren's interactive project based on his one-minute films that generate the letters of the alphabet.

NY, NY Documentary Feature Competition

  • American Cannibal: The Road to Reality, directed by Perry Grebin and Michael Nigro (USA) - World Premiere. In this unflinching, behind-the-scenes look at a doomed reality show, a pair of novice TV writers team up with the distributor of the Paris Hilton sex tapes to create a reality show in which contestants are starved on a desert island. More than just gripping entertainment, this documentary poses important questions about how far people will go in pursuit of fame and fortune.

  • The Cats of Mirikitani, directed by Linda Hattendorf (USA) - World Premiere. Jimmy Mirikitani is a fiercely independent, homeless 80-year-old Japanese-American artist who lost family and friends to both WWII internment camps in the U.S. and Hiroshima's atomic bombing. In this intimate and funny portrayal of the healing power of art, Mirikitani makes peace with his past and journeys from homeless to home. In English and Japanese.

  • Dorothy Day: Don't Call Me A Saint, directed by Claudia Larson (USA) - World Premiere. Leftist writer and activist Dorothy Day had an abortion, got a divorce, and bore a daughter out of wedlock. She also co-founded the Catholic Worker movement, leaving an important social legacy. This film explores the complex life of a woman who has already been placed on the official road to sainthood by the Vatican.

  • Follow My Voice: With the Music of Hedwig, directed by Katherine Linton (USA) - World Premiere. Jonathan Richman, Sleater-Kinney, Rufus Wainwright and a host of other musicians record a benefit album of songs from Hedwig and the Angry Inch for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of the Harvey Milk High School, the first LGBTQ high school in the nation. While the doc follows four students, the music creates a soundtrack for their lives.

  • Golden Venture, directed and written by Peter Cohn (USA) - World Premiere. The merchant ship Golden Venture was intercepted near New York City in 1993 with 300 undocumented Chinese immigrants onboard. Many of them went to jail for up to four years, and they're still seeking amnesty today. An engrossing chronicle of immigrants and their struggles for recognition and a better life. In English and Chinese

  • Jack Smith & the Destruction of Atlantis, directed and written by Mary Jordan (USA) - World Premiere. Jordan creates a mesmerizing collage of images and audio from the life and work of Jack Smith, the underground filmmaker, photographer, performance artist, and anti-capitalist, who worked in New York from the '60s until his death in 1989. Highlights include the story behind the Supreme Court case over the banning of his 1963 classic Flaming Creatures.

  • Lockdown, USA, directed by Michael Skolnik and Rebecca Chaiklin (USA) - World Premiere. This powerful doc chronicles Russell Simmons' quest to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws and how it effects the convicted's families. Simmons gives it his all; from assembling a rally with celebrities like 50 Cent and Mariah Carey to help raise awareness with New York City's youth, to meeting with New York Governor George Pataki.

  • The One Percent, directed by Jamie Johnson (USA) - World Premiere. Money can buy everything except social justice in this hard-hitting and hilarious documentary. By examining the lives of the rich and the poor, Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, uncovers frightening realities. Featuring a full spectrum of interviewees: Steve Forbes, members of Johnson's family, cab drivers, and victims of Hurricane Katrina.

  • Saint of 9/11, directed by Glenn Holstein (USA) - World Premiere. A loving tribute to Fire Department Chaplain Father Mychal Judge: parish priest, streetwise New Yorker, recovering alcoholic, and proud homosexual who gave his life on September 11 after administering last rites to a fallen firefighter. Saint of 9/11 traces the journey and struggles of a man whose compassion touched the world.

  • A Stadium Story: The Battle for New York's Last Frontier, directed by Jevon Roush and Benjamin Rosen (USA) - World Premiere. When a plan is unveiled to build a football stadium in Manhattan for the New York Jets, an epic battle ensues. The grassroots campaign against the stadium starts small, but when Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden, gets involved, what started as a David-and-Goliath battle soon becomes a clash of the titans.

  • Tell Me Do You Miss Me, directed by Matthew Buzzell (USA) - World Premiere. For over a decade, New York darlings Luna played lullabies for the indie set, but in 2004 they hung up their guitars for good. This documentary charts their bittersweet final tour as they travel around the world, down memory lane, and into the uncertain future.

  • Toots, directed by Kristi Jacobson (USA) - World Premiere. The '40s and '50s were a classic period in New York City nightlife, when the saloonkeeper was king and regular folks could drink with celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason. In this warmly nostalgic doc, Jacobson profiles her grandfather, the king of kings: Toots Shor of the eponymous restaurant and saloon, which was once the place to be seen in Manhattan.

  • When I Came Home, directed by Dan Lohaus (USA) - World Premiere. Iraq War veteran Herold Noel suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and lives out of his car in Brooklyn. Using Noel's story as a fulcrum, this doc examines the wider issue of homeless U.S. military veterans-from Vietnam to Iraq-who have to fight tooth-and-nail to receive the benefits promised to them by their government.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:36 AM

SXSW. Awards.

SXSW Film 06 The Audience and Jury awards for the SXSW Film Festival were announced last night and, with nearly twenty winners in all the various categories, AMERICANese (screenings) gets to edge out the others a bit as it's the only film to win two: Narrative Feature (Audience) and Outstanding Ensemble Cast (Jury).

At indieWIRE, naturally, Eugene Hernandez has the full story and the full list.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:42 AM

March 14, 2006

Shorts, 3/15.

A night at the movies as could only be experienced in 1974. Another terrific story from Flickhead.

The Hole Story Chuck Tryon: "I caught Alex Karpovsky's The Hole Story (IMDB) at the DC Independent Film Festival on Friday night, and like Matt, I deeply enjoyed the film. The Hole Story has been on the festival circuit for a few months now, and like Matt, I believe the film deserves a much wider audience, and after seeing this film, I can't help but anticiapte what Karpovsky will be doing in the future."

Lance Mannion introduces his coverage of The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah. Stay tuned.

Todd Seavey at Metaphilm on BloodRayne, Underworld: Evolution, UltraViolet and Perfect Creature: "[T]he particular emphasis all four of the movies place on hybrids - and the possibility of war over genetic purity - suggests that something more than old-fashioned vampirism makes these films resonate with early-twenty-first-century audiences - or rather with the producers who green-lit the projects."

Michael Koresky opens Reverse Shot's three-angled take on Marco Kreuzpaintner's Summer Storm at indieWIRE.

Tracey Emin's new film, What Price Art?, "investigates the gross imbalance between the prices male and female artists get for their work," notes Sophie Leiris, who meets the artist. Also in the Independent: Jonathan Brown chooses ten sequels that better the originals and David Thomson remembers Kay Kendall.

In the Guardian, Helen Pidd meets documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto.

Ray Pride at Movie City News: "Two long interviews in this column: writer-director Gavin Hood talks about his Oscar-winning South African Tsotsi, and Eugene Jarecki talks about Why We Fight and its analysis of war, money and belief in the US as well as his forceful reaction to a rancorous review by the New Yorker's David Denby."

The Face of Another Waggish on The Face of Another: "Easily the best [Hiroshi] Teshigahara film I've seen, and a better adaptation of a Kobo Abe novel than I thought possible."

Filmbrain on Pen-Ek Ratanaruang: "[W]ith the wry humor of 6ixtynin9 and the emotional dulcitude of Last Life in the Universe, Monrak Transistor is a magnificent film from one of the most consistently interesting directors working today."

Peter Nellhaus catches two films with Linda Lin Dai, "Hong Kong's equivalent to Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor."

Jason Morehead: "Unrepentantly dark, bleak, and wrought with the sort of manly existential melodrama that made us fall in love with John Woo back in the day, Sha Po Lang is also incredibly glossy, stylish, and prone to sometimes get bogged down by its own excess. Oh yeah, and it also features several action scenes that are just stunning for their sheer knock down, drag out intensity and brutality - just the way we like it."

In the Los Angeles Times: Mark Olsen on how, against all odds, Duck Season made it to US theaters and Kristin Hohenadel profiles Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

Elizabeth The BBC reports that Cate Blanchett and director Shekhar Kapur will pick up the story of Elizabeth I where they left off; the sequel's title: Virgin Queen in the Golden Age.

Paul Haggis may direct Against All Enemies, based on the book by the former national counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke, reports Chris Tilly at Time Out. Also: Daniel Day-Lewis talks about his upcoming collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood.

At Cinematical, Martha Fischer - who also reviews Róbert I Douglas's Eleven Men Out - finds news that Bruce Beresford will be shooting a Sergei Rachmaninoff biopic.

Boyd van Hoeij reports at Cineuropa that Hermine Huntgeburth will shoot the fifth adaptation of Effi Briest.

Gabriel Shanks wishes Liza Minnelli a happy 60th.

Tom Hall unveils the lineup for the Sarasota Film Festival (March 31 through April 9).

Ben Slater previews Lovebytes 2006 (March 22 through 25 in Sheffield).

Gen Art Festival 06 The Reeler has updates on the Gen Art Film Festival (April 5 through 11) and Tribeca's "All Access Connects" program.

Doug Cummings on the Moving Spaces: Production Design + Film exhibition currently at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in LA through April 16.

Signandsight translates Daniela Sannwald short talk with Detlev Buck about Knallhart (Tough Enough) for the Tagesspiegel.

At WSWS, Stefan Steinberg looks back on Absolute Wilson and a few other docs that screened at the Berlinale last month.

Time's Richard Corliss talks with George Lucas, Michael Mann, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Steven Spielberg and M Night Shyamalan about the digital future of cinema. Via Chris Barsanti at Vast Wasteland.

Online browsing tip. Shobary's Spaghetti Westerns. Trailers, music and more, via Wiley Wiggins.

Online viewing tip #1. At Twitch, Todd finds a trailer for Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9.

Online viewing tip #2. Florian Cramer's What the Hack.

Online viewing tips. Kate Stables has half a dozen more suggestions at the Guardian.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:13 PM

SXSW Elsewhere. 2.

SXSW Film 06 In a snapshot at the top of Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks's SXSW dispatch at indieWIRE, a followup to Eugene's Sunday opener, you can spot me at the tail end of a string of bloggers as I seem to be spotting another blogger or two or more in the crowd - there were quite a few, and it was great to finally match real malleable faces to the voices I've enjoyed reading over the past couple of years. In the meantime, Cyndi Greening has been blogging many of the other panels - extensively.

Alison Willmore's in Austin, too, blogging for the IFC.

"It's easy to see why there is no Lester Bangs of film criticism," writes Terry Sawyer at PopMatters. "There's a stately reserve to watching movies in a festival setting. With notable exceptions, people fall silent as the houselights dim, laugh on cue and politely applaud at the end, even if they will later take the film out to the woodshed." That said, small town gay bar (screenings) gets a passing grade while This Film is Not Yet Rated (screenings) is "one of the most intellectually engaging films I've ever seen."

Also: Tobias Peterson on A Prairie Home Companion (screenings), My Country, My Country (Mawtini, Mawtini; screenings) and Live Free or Die (screenings).

Fourteen Blake at Cinema Strikes Back: "Discovering gems like Fourteen (screenings) is what SXSW is all about."

Andrew O'Hehir is covering the fest for Salon, spotlighting Al Franken: God Spoke (screenings), cringing after Danny Roane: First-Time Director (screenings), noting that Before the Music Dies (screenings; site) is "the perfect film for this festival," and, harking back to Sunday, enjoying A Prairie Home Companion.

At Cinematical:

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon David Poland on Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (screenings; blog): "The film is smart and assured and while it doesn't have the breathtaking flourishes, it never falls over the edge in any way. This is a strong debut for a guy who is looking to have a long career." Related: Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker.

At Dumb Distraction, Micah offers his takes on Jam (screenings), Gretchen, Fired! (screenings), Air Guitar Nation (screenings), The Lost (screenings) and Behind the Mask; and Live Free or Die, Summercamp!, LOL (screenings), The Oh in Ohio (screenings), Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas (screenings) and Population 436 (screenings).

The AP, briefly, on Henry Rollins's appearance.

And of course, lots and lots of SXSW news and reviews at Austin-based Ain't It Cool News and filmmaker blogging going on at indieWIRE.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:20 PM

V for Voice.

The Village Voice may be troubled but it can still get a solid issue out the doors.

Voice: V for Vendetta "It might have taken a while, but the dystopian movie our political miasma has been demanding for six years has arrived: V for Vendetta," announces Michael Atkinson as part of this week's cover package.

J Hoberman takes it from there: "If The Matrix betrayed the Wachowskis' acquaintance with Jean Baudrillard, V for Vendetta suggests they've been perusing political philosopher Antonio Negri - both the old ultra-left Negri of Domination and Sabotage and the new Michael Hardt-collaborating Negri of Empire and Multitude. (The latter book even name-dropped The Matrix as an example of how Empire feeds on the creative 'social productivity' of the ruled.)" Related: Screenwriter John August reads a programmer's guide to the Matrix series and decides that "narratively speaking, those movies are a clusterfuck."

Matt Singer maps V's rocky road from comic to the screen. Related: The Reeler at the NYC premiere.

Elliott Stein previews the Don Siegel retrospective at the Film Forum (March 17 through April 13): "It's an oeuvre that would be unthinkable in today's Hollywood, consisting as it does of stylish but unpretentious mainstream films made with intelligence and vitality."

A Tribute to Alexander Kluge runs at the Anthology Film Archives from tomorrow through March 21 and Ed Halter has found a terrific way to introduce it: "Ever read TW Adorno's Minima Moralia and think, 'Hey, this would make a great movie'? Alexander Kluge might be your man." Related: Reverse Shot's mjr.

Atkinson sums up all that's deeply frustrating about the oeuvre of Wim Wenders in his review of Don't Come Knocking. Also, Thank You For Smoking, "a gleeful topical farce about capitalist mendacity."

Greg Tate:

Leadbelly

Because [Gordon] Parks transitioned into filmmaking just as TV was destroying photojournalism, the post-1970 generation knows him primarily as the aristocratic white-haired eminence who directed Shaft. And while Parks's autobiographical cinematic debut, The Learning Tree, is in the National Film Registry, his most critically acclaimed films, The Super Cops and Leadbelly, have languished unavailable for far too long. One online pundit thinks the mostly white Super Cops has aged far better than The French Connection and The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, while Roger Ebert calls Leadbelly hands down the best movie about a musician ever. I'd go further and say Leadbelly is the most lyrical work save August Wilson's about the roustabout world of violence, bloodhounds, swamps, railcars, bordellos, juke joints, cotton fields, and chain gangs that spawned the blues and its alchemical admixture of sardonic joy and short-lived sensual pleasure.

Hoberman reviews Ira Cohen's 1968 film, The Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda, "so High 60s that you emerge from its 20-minute vision perched full-lotus on a cloud of incense, chatting with a white rabbit and smoking a banana."

Joshua Land describes what must be one of the oddest behind-the-scenes docs made yet, The Big Question, comprised of interviews with the cast and crew of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

"Tracking Shots": Ben Kenigsberg on Find Me Guilty, Land on Beautiful City, Pete L'Official on Mirage, Jorge Morales on Take My Eyes and Hate Crime, Atkinson on The Devil's Miner and Don't Tell, Jordan Harper on She's the Man and Jim Ridley on Don't Trip... He Ain't Through With Me Yet.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:18 PM

March 13, 2006

Maureen Stapleton, 1925 - 2006.

Maureen Stapleton
Maureen Stapleton, an Oscar-winning character actress whose subtle vulnerability and down-to-earth toughness earned her dramatic and comedic roles on stage, screen, and television, died Monday. She was 80.

Adam Gorlick, the AP.

Ms Stapleton had one of the most honored acting careers of her generation. Her Academy Award for Reds, Warren Beatty's 1981 epic about the Russian Revolution, came on her fourth Oscar nomination. She also won two Tony Awards and an Emmy among many nominations.

Robert Berkvist, the New York Times.

I think voting is the opium of the masses in this country. Every four years you deaden the pain.

"Emma Goldman" in Reds.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:18 PM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2006

Austin Dispatch. 2.

SXSW 06 Either I know how to pick 'em or the bad movies at this year's SXSW Film Festival are simply too few and far between for me to find.

With 51 Birch Street (screenings), Doug Block has fashioned an engaging and at times even suspenseful mystery out of his family's story and, going by the sniffles rippling through the audience throughout the final third or so and the outpouring of personal testimonies in the Q&A that followed, something of an emotional catalyst as well. The set-up: He and his mother were always close; his father was always distant. She passes away unexpectedly. Just months later, his father goes down to Florida, meets up with the woman who'd been his secretary 35 years ago and announces: He's marrying her, selling the house in New York Doug and his sisters grew up in and moving down to the Sunshine State with his new wife.

51 Birch Street

Via understated voiceover and dexterous editing, Doug essentially takes on the role of detective. What actually happened? Had his father and the secretary had a relationship all along? What was the nature, really, of his parents' marriage? As it turns out, as the closets are sorted through, the boxes packed and family home closes down, mountains of evidence is revealed, a motherlode of evocative photographs, letters, mementos and, most telling of all, the diaries Doug's mother kept dating back to 1968. Doug expertly leads us toward one possible backstory before stumbling across another clue that radically realigns his initial, his second, then his third reading of the past. Sympathies shift among the lead players and, along the way, a social history of the American family unfolds, from the uptight 50s through the 70s (a swath of the story worthy of Updike, Cheever or Roth) to the present. I certainly won't reveal the ending, but I'll highly recommend the journey.

Darkon

The first surprise to hit me at last night's screening of Darkon (screenings) were the crowds. Who were all these people who wanted to see a bunch of managers, Starbucks employees, fabric buyers and house dads dress up in no-budget homemade Lord of the Rings outfits and hit each other with foam-covered wooden sticks? I, for one, was not among them - until I saw the trailer. Curiosity piqued, I'd soon discover that this is an all-too-rare case of an already intriguing trailer actually underselling the film.

Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer have made several very smart decisions about their fundamental approach to the story they have to tell. They treat these weekend role-players with utmost respect, convincing you, by example, to do so as well (you may have a different set of fantasies and desires that have nothing to do with acting out some medieval board game in the city park, but have you actually acted on yours lately?). They switch from standard documentary mode - talking heads mixed with handheld vérité - to Peter Jackson mode each time the game fires up; that is, we, via swooping helicopter and crane shots, whatever it takes, are swept up in the game ourselves. Focusing primarily on Skip Lipman, the house dad, they tell parallel stories, one beginning in the world of the game, the other in the plain vanilla world, of how a plan to usurp the throne leads to newly forged alliances, betrayals, intrigue, triumph, disappointment - and fresh starts. As the credits rolled, the crowd thundered and whooped and whistled and if there was a distributor in the audience, s/he'll know what to do.

Cocaine Angel One of my favorites of the indieWIRE blogs has always been Michael Tully's. Those who've followed it know that he's been working on Cocaine Angel (screenings) for, well, quite a while, and that it was well-received in Rotterdam. To cut to the chase, he and cinematographer Shawn Lewallen have done a fine job, but what ultimately separates the film from all the other addiction stories out there (and I thought I'd sworn off them for good after Candy) is the performance from co-producer and writer Damian Lahey as Scott, the addict.

Scott's unique quirks, his wryly humorous excuses for one fuckup after another and his somehow winning mix of helplessness, cluelessness and a persistent drive to forge ahead regardless make watching his seemingly aimless odyssey oddly entertaining. Lahey and Tully are to be commended as well for forgoing any backstory, any contrived psychological explanation for Scott's having traded a comfortable life with his wife and daughter for the 24/7 hell of addiction; as Lahey explained in the Q&A, some addicts do drugs simply because they like them. But hell it is, unredeemed by any angel, chemical or otherwise. Cocaine Angel is hardly a landmark film, but it is a promising debut for Tully and I do hope to see Lahey in front of a camera again.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:05 PM

Issues.

Film Comment: March/April The March/April issue of Film Comment is up. The online offerings: Mark Cummins on Mitsuo Yanagimachi's Who's Camus Anyway?, Elizabeth Lequeret on Claude Chabrol's Comedy of Power, Howard Hampton on Olivier Assayas's Clean and the results of the Readers Poll - plus! - a page of readers' raves and rants.

Issue 25 of Stop Smiling is the Documentary Issue, with two covers, Errol Morris on one and Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker on the other. Currently online: an excerpt from James Hughes's interview with Morris.

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne figure heavily in the April issue of Sight & Sound. Jonathan Romney interviews them and considers the oeuvre. B Ruby Rich argues the case for Paradise Now; and the reviews: Linda Ruth Williams on Transamerica, Kevin Jackson on Lemming and Ryan Gilbey on Syriana.

Firecracker, Issue 16, is up, too, featuring Robert Williamson picking five highlights from the recent Bangkok International Film Festival, Erika Franklin's interview with Cho Chang-ho, director of The Peter Pan Formula, and a slew of reviews.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:48 AM

Shorts, 3/12.

"Film buffs may find more to chew over than other viewers, but they won't necessarily come away with more." Jonathan Rosenbaum on Godard's Moments Choisis des Histoire(s) du Cinema in the Chicago Reader.

Inside Man Michael Guillen's caught an advance screening of Spike Lee's Inside Man and points to Emanuel Levy's rave.

"Santa [Inoue]'s urban revenge comic, Neighbor No. 13, has been turned into a limp horror movie by Yasuo [Inoue], a first-time director with no gift for suspense," writes Bill White in the Northwest Asian Weekly.

"So what happens if you take elements of that traditional Thai folklore and fuse it with the Japanese kaiju giant monster tradition?" asks Todd at Twitch. Answer: Garuda. Also: Seijun Suzuki's Zigeunerweisen.

At Koreanfilm.org, Duncan Mitchel on Madame Freedom (1956) and Adam Hartzell on The Hand of Fate (1954).

Philip Horne lauds Ingrid Bergman in the Telegraph.

In the Nation: Gilberto Perez on Colin McGinn's The Power of Movies: How Screen and Mind Interact and Stuart Klawans on Thank You for Smoking and Duck Season.

The Sundance Kids Annie Proulx, author, of course, of the story Brokeback Mountain is based on: "We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture." Also in the Guardian and Observer: Eamonn McCabe remembers Gordon Parks, Mark Kermode on disaster movies, Barbara Ellen interviews John Hurt, Gareth McLean interviews Felicity Huffman and Philip French reviews James Mottram's The Sundance Kids: How the Mavericks Took Back Hollywood.

Mottram, by the way, meets Susan Sarandon for the Independent, where Kaleem Aftab considers the Wachowskis.

In the New York Times, Dave Itzkoff has a backgrounder on V for Vendetta and Steven Farber's got one on Don't Come Knocking. Also: Jeff Koons shoots Gretchen Mol and "Amazon Considering Downloads," reports Richard Siklos.

Rosie Millard interviews Kathleen Turner for the New Statesman; Robert Newton interviews Wes Craven for Cinematical; Michael Hodges interviews Nick Cave for Time Out.

Dave Kehr, Matt Zoller Seitz (currently featuring oodles of Sopranos linkage) and NP Thompson discuss The New World. Related: Nelhydrea Paupér on Matt's Home at Flickhead, where Ray Young reviews the Screening Room series.

Craig Phillips: "Scott Coffey's Ellie Parker is not only a tour de force for Naomi Watts but is quite likely a more realistic depiction of life in Los Angeles than Crash."

Online viewing tip. Cult Classics. Via filmtagebuch.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:34 AM | Comments (3)

SXSW Elsewhere

SXSW Film 06 Another fine day at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, but more on that tomorrow evening. In the meantime, dispatches far more fun and varied than mine are coming in from the umpteen filmmakers blogging at indieWIRE.

Kat Candler (jumping off bridges; screenings) and Joe Swanberg (LOL; screenings) are filing at Indie Features 06 as well.

Jon Lebkowsky recommends Doug Block's 51 Birch Street (screenings).

A Prairie Home Companion Jette Kernion (also blogging at celluloid eyes) previews upcoming highlights at Cinematical, where she also reviews The Last Western (screenings) and Karina Longworth reviews Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion (screenings), "on its own terms, it's pretty much a perfect film." More on that one from Blake at Cinema Strikes Back.

Eric D Snider files a first diary entry at Hollywood Bitchslap, where the filmmaker interviews are gathered.

At Ain't It Cool News: Quint on Thank You For Smoking (screenings) and This Film is Not Yet Rated (screenings). Harry Knowles offers a few impressions and forwards a few more from Annette Kellerman. Related, Craig Mazin: "I know a lot of filmmakers get annoyed by Harry and AICN. I take a more moderate point of view."

Via Movie City News, Geoff Pevere argues in the Toronto Star that SXSW has not sold out.

Update: Micah has a terrific roundup at Dumb Distraction - six films in one day. The man is driven.

Posted by dwhudson at 12:09 AM

March 11, 2006

Other fests, other events.

Slant rolls out a special feature on the New Directors / New Films series (March 22 through April 2 in NYC).

Chuck Tryon, whose chutry experiment has just turned three - congrats! - is sending in dispatches from the DC Independent Film Festival.

Vers le sud Stephen Holden in the New York Times on Rendez-Vous With French Cinema (through March 19): "If none of the other films this year touch the depths of Heading South, there is much to enjoy in the series, which tilts more toward the lighter side than usual. Some of these meringues are so airy you can barely taste them."

"When Krzysztof Kieslowski died on March 13, 1996, it was as though a certain kind of cinema had come to an end along with him," writes Richard Williams in the Guardian. The Kieslowski season runs at the National Film Theatre in London through March 28.

In the Los Angeles Times: Susan King on Return to New Hollywood (March 15 through 25).

Michael Guillen previews offerings at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (March 16 through 26): Only the Brave and No Sleep Til Shanghai.

Peter Chan's Perhaps Love will open the San Francisco International Film Festival (April 20 through May 4), where the careers of Ed Harris and Werner Herzog will receive special recognition.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:55 PM

March 10, 2006

Austin Dispatch. 1.

SXSW 06 What a splendid way to begin the SXSW Film Festival, or at least my own experience of it, since during any given screening there are at least five others going on at the same time. I couldn't be more pleased with or moved by my selections from the varied menu, though, Old Joy and Manhattan, Kansas, two films radically different in tone, in look and feel, yet sharing a mournful pain for what goes lost as time passes and - again, for me, sorry - a reminder that America is a far richer, more complex and mysterious place than the one seen from afar. This almost medicinal "windows on the world" notion we maintain as one of the virtues of cinema can cut both ways.

Old Joy Old Joy arrived at SXSW with an award from Rotterdam and after a perhaps embarrassed Sundance festival director Geoff Gilmore found himself scrounging for an explanation as to why, since it turned out to be one of the most critically lauded films in Park City, the film was not included in the official competition. I wasn't exactly expecting throngs, but I did anticipate a crowd. Nope. The theater didn't even fill up. Folks, if you're in Austin, Thursday, 2:45 pm. Last chance for who knows how long.

Like an anguished chorus, frustrated liberals hash over what's gone wrong with the country, and more to the point, with themselves on Air America radio as a car rolls through the Pacific Northwest with two estranged friends and a dog, deep into the woods toward a spot where one of the friends, we eventually discover, is hoping an alignment of this place and this time will spark a revival of what they once had. Instead, we find out what the film's title means; instead, what would come off in any context other than this beautifully, humanely rendered journey as a mere platitude - stings.

Manhattan, Kansas is quite a jolt as a chaser. Old Joy's friends speak volumes while barely speaking at all, while Evie Wray, mother of filmmaker Tara Wray, speaks whatever's on her mind, and there's quite a storm going on in there, unpredictable as lightening.

Manhattan, Kansas To back up, a year ago, I interviewed Tara while she was still hard at work on the film, had read her story, "A Sometimes Never Mother," so I was especially curious, but I have to admit that at some early point, I was thinking, no, I don't want to be this privy to such private pain. Though undiagnosed, Evie is undoubtedly mentally disturbed and, even the moment she threatened to take both her own and her daughter's life aside, has scarred Tara deeply. Those objections eventually vanished as, one, I realized Tara had no way out for nearly 20 years, and two, as Evie reveals herself to be an alarmingly sympathetic character. You have to keep reminding yourself: Evie's life-embracing eccentricity is delightful on the screen; it's got to have been quite a different experience 24/7 - for a child.

As a testament to the cumulative emotional impact of Manhattan, Kansas, while much of the audience gushed unreservedly in the Q&A that followed, praising Tara's bravery for revealing so much of her own deeply torn feelings - and a running motif throughout is the meta-tug-of-war between her and Evie over what the film is actually "about" - one audience member chastised Tara no less emotionally, telling her that there will a come a time when she will appreciate what love her mother was able to give her. Tara's response: "Fair enough." But this is where she is now. She's got to be the tiniest yet toughest filmmaker I've ever met.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:38 PM | Comments (3)

March 9, 2006

Fests and events, 3/9.

Back in Texas and pouring over the Austin Chronicle's coverage of SXSW, now conveniently gathered on one mini-site.

Austin Chronicle: SXSW 06

Introducing nearly two dozen film festival-related pieces in the new issue, Shawn Badgley writes, "We've featured Steve Collins, Heather Courtney, Paul Gordon, Kat Candler, Korey Coleman, Jake Vaughan and Bryan Poyser on our cover and front and center for our SXSW Film 06 preview because we've responded to their movies as art of consequence. Beyond that, though, we've done so because of what they mean to Austin filmmaking and to the apparent mission of this festival (which, full disclosure, the Chronicle's publisher and editor co-founded)."

One of the documentaries screening at SXSW, Letters From the Other Side, interweaving "video letters carried across the US-Mexico border by [director Heather Courtney] with the personal stories of women left behind in post-NAFTA Mexico," has run up against the very sort of problem it examines. The US Consulate in Mexico City has denied visas to the women featured in the film despite letters from SXSW and Congressman Lloyd Doggett. Movie City News runs the release.

Several filmmakers with works to be screened are now blogging at indieWIRE.

Tim Basham previews four SXSW features.

Music? Let the depravedfangirls be your guide; plus, anders at Music for Robots narrows down the sample MP3s to a mere 79.

24th FIFA

At fps, Jas previews the International Festival of Films on Art in Montreal, through March 19.

In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey previews the Pacific Film Archive series The Wide-Angle Cinema of Michel Brault, through March 26.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is in London from March 15 through 25, and Wally Hammond previews the highlights for Time Out.

At Twitch, Todd points to the full lineup for the Philadelphia Film Festival, March 30 through April 11.

Toronto 06 Festive news at indieWIRE: Eugene Hernandez reports that Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn's The Journals of Knud Rasmussen will open the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7; Tamara Schweitzer has news of the Cleveland International Film Festival (March 16 through 26) and the Florida Film Festival (March 24 through April 2; site).

Online viewing tip. A Cinematical interview with Jay Floyd and Rob Houk, director and producer, respectively, of Forgiving the Friedmans Franklins.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:46 PM | Comments (6)

Shorts, 3/9.

Cineaste: Spring 06 On the road, as I am, or not, if you're looking for big and chunky reads and browses, Alison Willmore's found them for you at the IFC Blog: there's Reverse Shot's comprehensive "Year-in-Review" issue, quite a nice selection from Cineaste's Spring issue and Ed Gonzalez's highly bookmarkable collection of "Top 10s" at Slant. Much, much to catch up with.

It's a giallo orgy over in DK Holm's latest Movie Poop Shoot column: "[T]he influence travels from the US to London to Berlin to Rome, whence it turns around and influences the whole world with its stylistics, including the pyrotechnics of the teen slasher film in the United States."

Nikki Finke, it turns out, is one of those writers blogs were made for. Great fun.

Also blogging: Caveh Zahedi.

"Rap Dreams has the raw immediacy that gave [director Kevin] Epps's first feature [Straight Outta Hunters Point] its rep - but with sharper journalistic focus and storytelling skills," writes Johnny Ray Huston. Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian: Jonathan L Knapp reviews Unknown White Male while Susan Gerhard talks with director Rupert Murray; Kimberly Chun on Wholphin; and Michelle Devereaux talks with Robert Towne about Ask the Dust.

Ask the Dust "More than a decade after Towne optioned the rights, Ask the Dust is a reality, and if the end result isn't quite a great movie, it's indisputably a reverential one, from the sepia-toned studio logo that starts the film to the pages of [John] Fante's book that turn beneath the opening credits, as if we were entering into the realm of some timeless fable," writes Scott Foundas. More from J Hoberman in the Voice and Ryan Stewart at Cinematical.

Back in the LA Weekly, though, Ella Taylor on The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, "a gratuitously arty piece of child pornography carelessly knocked off from the grunge school of Harmony Korine, Larry Clark and Vincent Gallo," and Duck Season, "not (yet) the work of a great filmmaker, but it's the kind of movie in which a fledgling director traps his talent in a bottle and saves it for next time."

More on both in Andrew O'Hehir's "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon, plus Game 6.

Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach And in Stop Smiling's DVD roundup: Cisco Pike, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, The Virgin Spring and Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach.

Girish on Hong Sang-soo's Woman is the Future of Man and Tale of Cinema: "These are deceptively simple movies, requiring - demanding - repeat viewings."

Jim Ridley talks with both Neil Young and Jonathan Demme about Neil Young: Heart of Gold for the Nashville Scene.

Michael Guillen: "The Slanted Screen made clear to me how representations of Asian-American masculinity on the screen have been desexualized and criminalized and that I have been fighting against these misguided prejudices my entire adult life."

Kim Voynar reviews Gay Sex in the 70s for Cinematical.

Signandsight points to Heike Kühn's piece in the Frankfurter Rundschau on Yilmaz Arslan's Fraticide: "The movie shows the world of Kurdish and Turkish immigrants in Germany, but it is having problems reaching its target audience."

Popeye: Weakerist Sean salutes early Fleischer animation at Bitter Cinema.

For the AV Club, Tasha Robinson examines the lessons to be learned from the canon of conspiracy movies.

Meanwhile, what vast left-wing conspiracy? "Maybe Hollywood is just making the films its customers want to buy," suggests Matthew Yglesias in the American Prospect.

"Slowly and quietly, ultra-conservative, fundamentalist Christian, Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz is taking over the movies. And popular culture," blogs Peter Keough. And Keough looks ahead to Hollywood's spring lineup in the Boston Phoenix.

"[W]ho is NP Thompson, and why does s/he hate me?" asks Dave Kehr. "I looked at The New World again recently on a DVD screener, and I have to confirm Hoberman's suspicions: the film does not stand up particularly well to the threat of the small screen."

The Guardian: "The decision by Bafta - the British Academy of Film and Television Art - to make computer games its 'third arm' is overdue endorsement of a genre that has struggled for artistic recognition." Also: John Patterson meets Anjelica Huston and Jon Snow remembers Ana de Skalon, 1953 - 2006.

Scott Macaulay and Matthew Ross remember Garrett Scott at Filmmaker. A tragic loss, far too early.

Posted by dwhudson at 4:19 PM

Midnight Eye. Anime.

An anime special this time around at Midnight Eye, from Jaspar Sharp's Round-Up of five varied titles to Nicholas Rucka's interview with Studio 4°C head Eiko Tanaka, focusing on their highest profile work yet, Mind Game.

Mind Game

Reviews:

  • Sharp on Animal Treasure Island, a 1971 feature, whose "main point of interest is in its early employment of Ghibli's Hayao Miyazaki, working in the capacity of story consultant and key animator."

  • Sharp again: "Few series exploit anime's intrinsic liberation from reality quite so deliriously as Urusei Yatsura, a light-hearted, candy-coloured concoction combining a winning formula of ribald high-school fantasy, physical slapstick and rip-roaring space opera."

Wicked City

And the results of the Best of 2005 Reader's Poll are in, with Survive Style 5+ enjoying a comfortable lead over Tony Takitani, while all others trail considerably.

Posted by dwhudson at 10:40 AM

March 7, 2006

Gordon Parks, 1912 - 2006.

Gordon Parks: No Excuses
Gordon Parks, who captured the struggles and triumphs of black America as a photographer for Life magazine and then became Hollywood's first major black director with The Learning Tree and the hit Shaft, died Tuesday, a family member said. He was 93.

Polly Anderson for the AP.

Gordon Parks was the first black director to make a major studio film, and his The Learning Tree (1969) was a deeply felt, lyrically beautiful film that was, maybe, just too simple and honest to be commercial.

Roger Ebert.

Though Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and Sweet Sweetback (1971) have been credited with kicking off the genre, MGM's seminal Shaft (1971) probably set a more precise grid for much of what followed. Shaft gives us a sexy, practically omnipotent hero (Ebony model Richard Rountree); a lewd score ("who's the black private dick that's a sex machine for all the chicks?"); and the hero's precarious balancing act between whitey's world and the ghetto.

Gary Morris, Bright Lights.

A Gordon Parks Timeline. Photos.

Online listening tip. Phil Ponce for PBS in 1998.

Posted by dwhudson at 5:47 PM

Shorts, 3/7.

J Hoberman: "Not everyone adores The New World, but those cineastes who like it, really, really like it... [I]f nothing else, the response to The New World reflects the collective utopian yearning still bound up in the movies - and the religious fervor this particular film has generated is fascinating, not least to an agnostic like myself."

Kenneth Anger Meanwhile, Ed Halter opens the film department's entry in the Village Voice Spring Arts Preview with a glance at the Whitney Biennial, "usually the place to catch a glimpse of hot young artists, [but] its 2006 film and video program will be showcasing the other end of the age spectrum: The slate includes more than a few avant-garde moviemakers who were already stirring things up during the Johnson administration." More from Jerry Saltz and, in the New York Times, Michael Kimmelman; in the New Yorker, Calvin Tomkins; and of course, right here, David D'Arcy.

Also in the Voice:

Romance

Boyd van Hoeij at europeanfilms.net: "The überprolific François Ozon has barely shepherded his latest film Le temps qui reste (Time to Leave) through to its cinema release, but he is already behind the camera for his new film." Romola Garai and Charlotte Rampling will star in Paradise, adapted from the novel by British writer Elizabeth Taylor.

Screenwriter (and fellow GreenCine editor) Craig Phillips considers the Oscar-winning Crash screenplay.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was always good. Blake digs up the evidence at Cinema Strikes Back.

Ian Johnston on Fassbinder's The Stationmaster's Wife at Not Coming to a Theater Near You. Related: Being Boring on Chinese Roulette and Steven Boone makes an admittedly absurd comparison.

"[A]llowing [An Ambush of Ghosts] to remain languishing in limbo is ridiculous," argues Nathaniel Drake Carlson; he also interviews director Everett Lewis.

Day Watch Jarrett Dobson reviews Day Watch at Twitch.

In New York, David Edelstein recommends Fernando Eimbcke's Duck Season. More from Michael Atkinson in the Voice.

At Maisonneuve: Jonathan Kiefer on the Oscar-nominated short doc, The Mushroom Club.

Stanley Kauffmann reviews Carlos Reygadas's Battle in Heaven for the New Republic.

Violet Glaze at PopMatters on The Misfits.

Deutsche Welle reports on Dani Levy's upcoming Hitler comedy.

Sunday was a good one at Cynematik.

John O'Neil in the New York Times: "Dana Reeve, an actress who became an advocate for the disabled after her husband, Christopher Reeve, became paralyzed, died on Monday night of lung cancer at the age of 44, said Kathy Lewis, the president and chief executive officer of the Christopher Reeve Foundation."

Online browsing tip. Matt Jones's storyboards for Corpse Bride. Via Drawn!

Online viewing tip #1. Faces. From Matt Clayfield.

Online viewing tip #2. A Fairly Reliable History of British Film. Via Peter Nellhaus.

Online viewing tips. hillmancurtis, inc, the Artist Series, featuring, among many others, Mark Romanek. Thanks, Jamie!

Posted by dwhudson at 2:55 PM | Comments (3)

Bye, Oscar.

Yes, democracy in Iraq stumbles one step forward, two steps back, bombs have gone off in India, pro-lifers are on a roll in the US, but the San Francisco Chronicle knows what's really rending the hearts and minds of Americans, and dammit, they'll get to the bottom of it, too:

San Francisco Chronicle

So, too - regardless of which side they'll argue - will Campaspe, David Carr, Jeff Chang, the Cinemarati, Edward Copeland, Dennis Cozzalio, Nick Davis, Aaron Dobbs, Roger Ebert, Filmbrain, Nikki Finke, the Germans, Eugene Hernandez, Anthony Kaufman, Dave Kehr, Peter Keough, Richard Kim (more), Mark Pfeiffer, David Poland, Tim Robey, Matt Zoller Seitz, Chuck Tryon, Kenneth Turan, Jeffrey Wells, Alison Willmore, Ryan Wu - and Gabriel Shanks rounds up much, much more.

Also: The Reeler reviews the live bloggers.

Posted by dwhudson at 11:54 AM

March 6, 2006

Whitney's American Night

David D'Arcy takes in the 2006 Whitney Biennial (March 2 through May 28) and talks to its co-curator, Philippe Vergne.

Whitney Biennial The title of the 2006 Whitney Biennial is Day for Night. You'll remember that it is the English translation of the title of a 1973 film by François Truffaut, La Nuit Americaine, a reference to the technique that allowed you to shoot in the day while making it look like night on film. Truffaut's film is a light backstage drama about the making of a light love story, filled with all sorts of gags and inside jokes about the kinds of dissimulation involved in telling a story on the screen. When the film was made, the French nouvelle vague, led by Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and others, was sputtering, losing its ideas and its stylistic edge, and falling into hard politics (Godard) and soft humor (Truffaut).

Like most curators, especially curators who are showing the works of so many artists in an atmosphere where "diversity" competes with "novelty" for the highest virtue, the Whitney team of Chrissie Iles and Phillippe Vergne intend their title to have many meanings. Day for night suggests that something might be stated by the use of its opposite. We used to call that irony, and if this show doesn't prove that irony is alive and well after September 11th, when earnest cultural types announced its obituary, at least the show proves that irony is alive. It's all over the walls.

Another clear message that the title seems meant to convey is that moving pictures predominate the contemporary art field in an unprecedented way. The media might be video, the Internet, the cell phone, the computer or digital photography, all of which offer day-for-night powers to conceal or illuminate, but the content seems to come from film culture. I'm not thinking so much of the film culture of Truffaut and his peers or progeny (if there are any these days, since the kids who were mobbing French films 35 years ago now seem to be watching sit-coms), but I'm thinking of Andy Warhol's blithe numb celebration of the ordinariness of stardom and the stardom of the ordinary. Prophetic in yet another way, Warhol was watching sit-coms back then when the serious types were watching Truffaut. I still remember the great comment Warhol made to the photographer and filmmaker William Klein when Warhol was told that Klein lived in Paris. "How can you live in France?" Warhol asked him. "The TV's so shitty."

Day For Night Plumb the title a little deeper, and you might consider the show as a would-be x-ray of the pretenses of art and artists, seen by the artists whom the curators esteem. I never thought anyone needed so much technology to identify pretense, but this is the 21st century. It's better to read the exhibition as a newspaper, as reflections of the dominant themes, styles, or influences - the latest installment on what is now a continuum of art events, biennials and art fairs.

The venerable muses of Day for Night are, of course, Andy Warhol, the master of the banal who ended his life painting portraits of the very rich for lots of money. Even more so, there's Marcel Duchamp, the conceptualist who provided lifetime tenure for so many artists these days. In the galleries, a crypt-like space is a shrine to Duchamp, with urinal, bicycle wheel and other relics, and dimmed lights. Even Duchamp might say that the proper response to a display like that one would be a shrug. But why shrug when you can genuflect?

It's odd, but this homage to emotional attachment rubs shoulders with engagement, political engagement, or at least the artists' version of that. In the well or moat of the Whitney building (which the curators praised as an integral part of the exhibition - that's a mystery), Mark Di Suvero and Rirkrit Tiravanija have built (or rebuilt) the "Artists' Tower for Peace," an update of a skeletal structure that was erected in Los Angeles on a vacant lot in 1966 and ringed by a wall covered with the work of 200 artists. Now some 300 artists have placed two-foot square panels of their work on the tower. A spire (rising from the gilded floor of Madison Avenue) to speak truth to power? Perhaps we should see it as a reality check. There's an innocence here, not just in the utopian impulse to site a Peace Tower on Madison Avenue (in a show sponsored by Altria, formerly Philip Morris, and by Deutsche Bank), but in the images on the tower that look like they were made by children and taken right off the refrigerator door. These are the kind of drippy artists' politics that we haven't seen much in years. Is this the best they can do? Let's not forget that after 1966, when the first tower went up in Los Angeles, the Vietnam War went on to its most bloody years. Open the newspaper now (the real newspaper, I mean) and you'll see that the Iraq War is turning into the civil war that some predicted. According the our former CIA director, it would be a slam dunk. There's a day-for-night moment.

A few words on some of the moving pictures in the exhibition (and more in a later installment).

Among the feature films at the Whitney is George Butler's Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, a compendium of Vietnam War era footage of Kerry denouncing the ongoing war and exposing atrocities that soldiers were committing. That took real courage at the time. Let's forget about the movie as a campaign film for a man whom history already seems to have forgotten, made by the director of Pumping Iron, about Arnold Schwarzenegger the body-builder, a man who won his election. The 2004 presidential campaign was the war that this war hero needed to win - for all we know, given the state of voting machines in the US, he may have won - and this is the official portrait that doesn't seem to have helped.

Caligula trailer One work that already seems to be vying for the audience award is Francesco Vezzoli's promo-as-movie, Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal's 'Caligula', in which Mila Jovovich, Benicio del Toro, a botoxed Courtney Love and a Delphic Gore Vidal mug for the camera as they ham the tag lines for a spoof-trailer for a remake of the 1979 film which sought with minimal irony at the time to be the most shocking film of its era - or was it the most shocking film ever made? Expanding the lurid kitsch palette here is a production design complete with chained boys and gold dildos by Donatella Versace. You can just imagine the colors. Yet you have to wonder what they were thinking. Caligula was distributed by Bob Guccione, the Donald Trump of porn, a blowhard who saw himself as a sexual revolutionary, with an ego that was probably a lot larger than another part of his body. The Penthouse founder is credited as co-director of the original and as one of the screenwriters. It's hard to top the actual Caligula, which was a masterpiece of unintentional humor - the film's tag line was "What would you have done if you had been given absolute power of life and death over everybody else in the whole world?" - so why bother, especially in an art museum. Some of the outtakes for Madonna's "Vogue" video might do it, but mugging for a mock-Caligula sure doesn't make it funnier. Don't tell that to the audience that thinks it's seeing something new. (The curators should be commended for including a picture of Jack Smith by the door to the Vezzoli installation. Smith was spoofing and honoring the Babylonian excesses of cinema on the margins of the margins decades ago.)

A Journey That Wasn't An audience looking for the new new thing may be disappointed by Pierre Huyghe's film, A Journey That Wasn't, a tale of two parallel treks, one in Antarctica and the other in Central Park. Disappointed, that is, unless it's looking for an homage to another contemporary art hero, Matthew Barney. Huyghes's camera follows a team of artists to Antarctica with a slow mute solemnity that makes you think of Drawing Restraint. Instead of whales or dolphins, Huyghes focuses on penguins. Did he know that a much longer ode to penguins has been seen by tens of millions of people already? Never mind. Again, it's the artists as the world-saving special forces who brave the elements to bring us art about themselves. The parallel journey takes you to more familiar ground, Central Park, where an orchestra plays in a thick fog, and a penguin adds his/her own voice to the mix. It's as pretentious as Matthew Barney, just shorter, thankfully. To be fair, in Huyghes's attention to the film image, he gets some great results. His shots of light on snow in the wind envelope you in what seems like an infinite depth.

1st Light There was work in moving pictures that I genuinely liked. 1st Light, Paul Chan's elegant projection onto the gallery's stone floor, shows two tides of movement in balletic slow motion - bodies falling down from above, and vague shapes floating upward. On the literal level, we can view this as the suicides of 9/11 and the resurrection of shapes unknown. Rebirth? Is that vague enough? Yet on a formal level, Chan's work has the elegant shadow-play of a photograph by Mark Strand or Andre Kertesz. The illuminated shaded floor can also look like an empty space in a de Chirico painting. It's contemplative, hypnotic and, in a show of over-stimulation, that's a relief. Eric Fischl got in trouble when his sculpture of falling bodies was shown at Rockefeller Center a few years ago. Chan's work is more mournful. I look forward to the debate it generates.

Other works that caught my eye were paintings by Marilyn Minter that took a glam twist in hyper-realism in which facets of light are given a lustrous tactility, whether they are in rhinestones on a woman's shoe or in beads of water. The bravura technique was dazzling, as intended, but what struck me were compositions that seemed lifted from films - an eye painted on a huge scale that could have come from Buñuel or from Blow Up, or high heels ascending a staircase that frame your view into the room that's about to be entered. It couldn't be a more unnatural point of view, yet it couldn't be normal. You've seen shots like it in a hundred Hollywood films. If you ever doubted that film frames perception, think again.

Or perhaps its better to consider how art sponsorship shapes perception. The day-for-night effect might well be applied to the exhibition's sponsors. Clearly, Altria (manufacturer of Marlboro) wants to be associated with the chic "risk-taking" of the biennial with Bush-bashing on every floor - and if cigarette smoking isn't a risk, what is? Yet I would bet that if you took a good look at Altria's political contributions, the evidence would show that most of those contributions went to politicians who supported the war in Iraq, including George W. Bush. It isn't Day for Night, but Day and Night - Altria gets to have its cake and eat it, too.

François Truffault made Day For Night at a time when he was at a dead end. After his flirtation with light drama, he retreated from filmmaking for a year.

I spoke to Philippe Vergne at the press preview for the 2006 Whitney Biennial on February 28. Vergne is also deputy director and chief curator of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Philippe Vergne Why are you calling this exhibition Day for Night?

An exhibition is like a film. You have data or information, and then you edit. But that's not the main argument behind giving this title. The title was given because, in serendipity, we encountered the Truffaut film, which we thought was interesting, and then we started to play with it. The original title was La Nuit Americaine ("The American Night"), but the Truffaut film was also a film about making a film, so it was modernity - a cultural project that was able to unfold a critique of itself, to be a self-critical project, which is what we hope the exhibition is about.

This is also a moment when the nouvelle vague is itself questioning a dominating canon, and the canon was Hollywood, that through the Marshall Plan was imposed in every movie theater in France at the time. The language of Hollywood was becoming a virus, and what the nouvelle vague tried to do was to change that. The idea of going against the canon, against the official truth, was also at the core of the exhibition. The French title, "The American Night," also raised the question, Where are we in a country where science has been criticized and the other option is belief systems, pre- or post-Enlightenment? Are we in the American Night?

When Truffaut made Day for Night, the adventurous days of the nouvelle vague were over, the nouvelle vague had already run its course. They were looking out into a void.

It was the tail end of the nouvelle vague, but the questioning was still there. There is this other quote by Jean-Luc Godard that we have been chewing on very much. Maybe he said it at the core of the nouvelle vague - "Don't do political film, but do film politically. It was interesting for us to see that the methodology, not specifically the aesthetic, but the methodology, was coming from an aesthetic practice that was not necessarily the visual art practice. We have Kenneth Anger [Mouse Heaven] at the entrance to the exhibition, one of the first works. He's someone who is not a practicing visual artist, but an icon, a cultural figure. That's because, in terms of the visual arts, we're going through a moment of crisis - not in a negative way, but crisis in the sense where everything is shifting. All our formats are shifting around, and we don't really know where we're standing.

How does the importance of moving pictures figure in to the choice of your title - moving pictures as a greater component of contemporary art?

It doesn't play a role. It's just there. We didn't think about this exhibition as a medium-based exhibition. The nature of the medium almost never entered our conversation. You need to read between the lines. We went to fish in the film culture pound, which means that everything is colliding together. To make a distinction between the disciplines is not relevant any more, it doesn't work any more. The artists don't work like that.

You've re-commissioned the Artists Tower for Peace. The tower is a symbol of resistance. Isn't it also a symbol of the futility of artists' politics?

If, because you think it's not effective, you give up, then you give up. If art can change the world for one person, that's good enough.

The one-person theory?

Step by step, one by one, it's going to take time. It's utopian. Art can make a difference. You're not going to stop the war, but maybe it's going to make people think a little more differently and not take for granted what is put in front of your eyes, and that's what I think the statement is behind the Peace Tower.

So, were works simply chosen for their response to the war?

It's more of a general statement - even if you look at the little drawings by Daniel Johnston [the songwriter and subject of the film, The Devil and Daniel Johnston], which are not reactions to the immediate actuality, there is this disgruntled reality that the artists are working with. Whatever the actuality seems to them is really going to be apparent in the work. We can compare them to another moment in history. The arte povera artists, for example, in Europe, the first Michelangelo Pistoletto work, the first Mario Merz work - it was a very strong aesthetic and political statement. Artists were trying to merge the field of activism and the field of aesthetics, and there are many works in the exhibition that go along these lines.

Posted by dwhudson at 8:39 AM

March 5, 2006

Oscars.

Who knew that rich white people were specially equipped to deal with complicated issues of race on the silver screen? Next thing you know, a bunch of heterosexuals are gonna make a movie about gay cowboys.

Jackson West, Oscar 2006 Blog.
The winners.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:14 PM | Comments (2)

Indie Spirit. Awards.

Have landed Stateside, Jon Stewart and Co in the background, just now catching up with the Indie Spirit Awards. Which means, naturally, heading straight to Eugene Hernandez's report at indieWIRE.

More soon.

Posted by dwhudson at 7:21 PM | Comments (4)

March 3, 2006

Shorts, 3/3.

Tullio Kezich: Fellini Federico Fellini "has been graced with a profusion of books - some thirty in English, French and Italian at last count - but Tullio Kezich's biography surpasses them all," writes Peter Cowie in the Nation. "Trenchant in its critical analysis, absorbing and sympathetic in its account of his private life, Kezich's Fellini is a revelation. It effaces virtually everything written to date about the Italian maestro."

Todd's excited. Understandably so: "Miike's Blogging! And occasional Twitch contributor and very fine Japanese film blogger Don Brown is translating it! Go now!"

The Robert Altman Blog-a-Thon has begun and will carry on all weekend long. Keep an eye on The House Next Door for updates.

Jonny Leahan surveys the varied and intriguing batch of docs nominated for Indie Spirit Awards - only one, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, is also nominated for an Oscar. Plus, the Indies remembered to nominate Grizzly Man. Also at indieWIRE, more on Indiewood's awards season from Eugene Hernandez and Jason Guerrasio checks in on five independent films in production: Anamorph, Jumping Off Bridges (set to premiere at SXSW), My Suicide, Starting Out in the Evening and The US vs John Lennon.

Yol The Telegraph's Sheila Johnston talks with Fatih Akin about Yilmaz Güney, a "hero" about whom he plans to make a biopic at some point. And Yol: "This is such physical cinema: you're glued to the screen. The hurt, the pain the characters feel - you feel it with them. It's something you never forget."

Bruce Hainley on Liza with a "Z" in Artforum: "Whether taken as the Lacanian real in drama-queen mode or the inexplicable radioactivity of the experienced, 'live' irradiates everything the audience and the performer search for and rarely find. Many performers and most audiences have long been happy with living proof (the half-life of Elvis impersonators; the poetry of the has-been), but it's 'live' that lies at the heart of Liza, the 'mark' - exceeding life - she wants to hit every time."

"Two underappreciated films by Frank Perry, matched as part of the American Cinematheque's Return to New Hollywood series, illustrate the fragility of adapting sophisticated works." Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times on Play It as It Lays and The Swimmer.

Lucid In Metro, Steve Palopoli on Lucid, "a mind trap of a thriller that goes a long way toward suggesting how the legacy of Canadian filmmaking might be defined."

John August: "Professional Writing and the Rise of the Amateur." It's a longish speech in which the screenwriter ends up saying things he didn't originally plan to.

Budd Parr at Chekhov's Mistress on The Schreiber Theory: "[David] Kipen's beef is not so much with directors, but with the institutionalization of the idea that directors are the dominant creative force in film. In fact, he duly acknowledges the collaborative effort of filmmaking, as critics of auteurism have always done, but wants to put writers - schreibers in Yiddish, the mother tongue of many of America's first screenwriters - back into the spotlight they deserve." Via wood s lot.

Signandsight translates Alexandra Stäheli's Neue Zürcher Zeitung piece on Valley of the Wolves: "It could be that the Muslim media is in fact holding up a mirror, and that instead of unreadable Oriental cryptograms, it is reflecting our own, all-too-comprehensible images." More from Steven Wells in the Philadelphia Weekly.

"[T]he best vlogs today take the idea of audience seriously, and compare favorably to what we already see on television and at the movie house," writes Hans Eisenbeis in a piece for the Rake singing the praises of Chasing Windmills. Via Chuck Olsen: "I've been raving about Chasing Windmills to every reporter I've talked to in the last few months, hoping someone will get that this is a BIG DEAL."

Andrew O'Hehir's "Beyond the Multiplex" column at Salon is devoted entirely to the Foreign Language and Documentary Oscar nominees this time around, moving first from a broad historic view of past winners in the two categories to this year's contenders.

For Nerve, Ada Calhoun talks with Street Fight director Marshall Curry. Via Alternet.

Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper on three docs: Antonio Negri: A Revolt That Never Ends, Darwin's Nightmare and The Century of the Self.

Coca: The Dove of Chechnya At Cinematical, Kim Voynar on Coca: The Dove from Chechnya, "not so much a political film, as a human one."

Noel Murray has a good long talk with Whit Stillman. Also at the AV Club, Murray and Scott Tobias select "10 Great Films Directed by Actors."

Other Cinema is staging an Arthur Lipsett Revival on Saturday in San Francisco. Dennis Harvey in the SF Bay Guardian: "As excoriating a worldview as these movies provide, they're also very funny, and Lipsett's juxtapositions are unfailingly genius."

Also:

Picturegoer: Kay Kendall Christopher Bray in the New Statesman: "Kay Kendall was beautiful beyond belief - and blessed with the belief that beauty was an absurdity. Her premature death in 1959 robbed this country of the sprightliest movie comedienne it has ever produced."

"I suddenly stumbled upon HBO, and Dangerous Liaisons," writes Jennifer Makowsky. "Even though I've seen Stephen Frears's 1988 version of the film roughly 30 times already, I put the remote down and got comfortable." Ah, there are a handful of movies like this for each of us, the Casablancas, the Godfathers... Also at PopMatters, Amos Posner on work Oscar overlooked and, via Wiley Wiggins, Ryan Gillespie on Brian Eno's 14 Video Paintings.

"The Smoking Gun has obtained internal budget documents detailing where the money was allocated on an assortment of big-budget Tinseltown productions." The focus of the first round of publication: four star-studded films by M Night Shyamalan."

From Johannesburg, Rory Carroll reports on the reality behind Tsotsi: "Acclaimed as a masterpiece by many critics, the film's success has beamed international attention on to a form of armed robbery which evokes particular dread." Related: Sean Axmaker's interview with director Gavin Hood and the Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit on the South African film industry.

Also in the Guardian:

  • From Jerusalem, Chris McGreal has an update on the campaign against Paradise Now. The parents of three children killed in a suicide bombing have gathered 32,000 signatures; their petition demands that the Academy drop the film from the Oscar race.

Kidulthood

"Gael García Bernal will make his directorial debut with a low-budget feature film that focuses on class differences in Mexico," reports John Hecht. Also in the Hollywood Reporter, Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit on Zach Braff's remake of Open Hearts. More at europeanfilms.net: Susanne Bier's Brothers is also to be remade. David Benioff's writing the adaptation.

MoveOn: The Movie? Evidently. At Cinematical Martha Fischer notes that Marc Levin's next film will be funded in part by... MoveOn: "Is this unsettling to anyone else, or is it typical for the organizations/individuals being portrayed to contribute funding to documentaries?"

Mimong Mimong (Sweet Dream) is the "oldest surviving Korean movie, which was only known through historical records until it was found last year in a Chinese film archive," reports Kim Tae-jong for the Korea Times; the Korean Film Archive will be screening the 1936 film this weekend in Seoul. Via Blake at Cinema Strikes Back.

"Edvard Munch is a movie one begins in trepidation and then quickly becomes hooked on," writes Glenn Erickson at DVD Talk. Also, reviewing Prix de beauté, Erickson notes, "Louise Brooks's Pandora's Box is a German silent in dire need of the fine restoration given Fritz Lang's Metropolis." Yes. Speaking of Lang, though, Richard Armstrong reviews Eureka's release of M at Flickhead.

The Austin Chronicle preps this week for SXSW by focusing on the Interactive Festival. Also: Marc Savlov talks with Dick Rude about his "glorious, moving documentary Let's Rock Again!, the story of [Joe] Strummer's final American and Japanese tours [spinning] out like a punk rock cable from the beyond." And: Spencer Parsons on The Best of Youth.

Brian Darr, among the Cinemarati: "The results of a worldwide poll of Thai cinema aficionados have just been released at the excellent resource www.thaicinema.org." Let Brian tell you about the top three.

In the Times Literary Supplement, Ian Thomson traces the improbable origins of Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana.

"Gay cowboys, it seems, are shaping up to be like 'Who's on first?' or 'the aristocrats': a joke that keeps on giving."Virginia Heffernan on all those Brokeback Mountain spoofs. Michael Bronski goes a bit further in the Boston Phoenix, probing possible explanations for the question, "[W]hy has this particular film so gripped the moviegoing psyche?" Or, skip all that and head straight to low culture's history of Brokeback Mountain jokes, from 4000 BC through to the future.

Also in the New York Times:

Al Otro Lado

David Fellerath in the Independent Weekly: "I don't want to embarrass myself by declaring Manderlay to be in the company of master works that were notoriously rejected by ungrateful and know-nothing audiences. I do, however, feel it deserves a better fate than what it's getting: a few sneering reviews and no ticket sales."

Jason Shawhan interviews Michael Haneke and Noel Murray reviews Caché for the Nashville Scene.

Tristram Shandy Paul Matthews on Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story: "Winterbottom's movie works because it does to film production what Sterne's book did to the emerging form of the novel in the 1760s."

In the Independent, Andrew Gumbel considers what the Oscar noms have to say about the state the US finds itself in (similarly, David Walsh at WSWS). Also: Gill Pringle talks with Steve Martin and Will Self on The Proposition as an Australian Western.

The BBC: "A German court has banned the screening of a film based on the case of self-confessed cannibal Armin Meiwes."

In the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein laughs off that study claiming that critics speak volumes when they keep their mouths shut.

If you haven't been following this whole IFC-Comcast simultaneous theatrical and VOD release situation, Ray Pride has the need-to-know info at Movie City Indie.

An iTunes for movies? From Apple itself? At AppleInsider, Kasper Jade looks into how such a service might be taking shape. Via Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker. More from Jason Morehead.

Online listening tip #1. Patrick Macias interviews Kojiro Abe.

Online listening tip #2. The team behind Fired!, premiering at SXSW, and Accidental Genius author Marshall Fine on the Leonard Lopate Show.

Online listening tip #3. Blake Eskin talks with Ian Buruma about his uncle, John Schlesinger, at Nextbook.

Fargo Online listening tips, round 1. NPR again. sSusan Stamberg asks sound mixer Dave Parker and key grip Gary Dagg about their jobs and Bob Reha visits Fargo, ND, where they've recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of Fargo by projecting it onto the side of a hotel.

Online listening tips, round 2. The Austin Film Festival podcasts.

Online viewing tip. Alternet's Evan Derkacz points to the AP video report on Bush's pre-Katrina briefing.

Online viewing tips. Girish: "I've been reading David [Lowery]'s blog regularly for over a year but only recently did I mosey on over to watch - and enjoy - his short films. Especially for someone so young, they're remarkably wide-ranging in subject and style."

Posted by dwhudson at 8:32 AM | Comments (1)

Fests and events, 3/3.

Brian Darr previews four films to be screened at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival: Wisit Sasanatieng's Citizen Dog, Nobuhiro Yamashita's Linda Linda Linda, Xu Jinglei's Letter From an Unknown Woman and Lu Chuan's Kekexili: Mountain Patrol.

Cinequest 06 In Metro, Richard von Busack's huge, huge guide to Cinequest, the San Jose film festival on through March 12.

If you're in Chicago, your choices are many over the following days. The Chicago Review previews a week's worth of samurai films (today through March 9), the European Film Festival (today through March 30) and the Chicago Irish Film Festival (today through March 8).

Cinematical's Kim Voynar has an all-encompassing Seattle events roundup.

Todd at Twitch and Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker have got the Philadelphia Film Festival's Danger After Dark series lineup.

Grady Hendrix scans the offerings scheduled for the Hong Kong International Film Festival, April 4 through 19: "My hat's off to the festival this year. This is a pretty amazing line-up by anyone's standards."

Michael Guillen has a terrific rundown of all he saw when he peeked into Marlow's Cabinet of Curiosities.

And a reminder. Hollywood Bitchslap is still posting interviews with directors of features screening at SXSW.

Posted by dwhudson at 6:46 AM | Comments (2)

March 2, 2006

Home.

Home Part of the current interest in Home among bloggers is the fact that it's the feature debut of Matt Zoller Seitz, known to some as the other film critic at the New York Press. Though he's certainly flown against the wind as often as, and perhaps more often than most other alternative press critics, it'd be hard for anyone not to come off as the co-pilot while sitting next to Armond White.

But then, at the very stroke of 2006, The House Next Door opened and, going by the flurry of comments following practically every new entry - there's been one nearly every day for two months now - it was an instant hot spot among cinephiles. A bit like the party in Home, from what I can gather reading about it rather than seeing it, House has become an after-hours sort of gathering place where you can shed your professional veneer in confidence because the host himself has already set an example. It's a classic blog story, really. Matt seems to feel free to do and write and emote in the House in a way he - or anyone else - wouldn't dare even in the pages of the relatively rambunctious NYP. He can, for example, revisit The New World as often as he damn well pleases; as a critic, he can approve it and recommend it and contextualize it and formally argue its case; as a blogger, though, he can love it openly and passionately. That's what's made the House more of a vortex of debate over Malick's film than any other generic "discuss this review" invitation link to countless empty forums.

But the House came after Home. How's it playing? "Home accumulates a blurry, on-the-fly atmosphere spiked with moments of unexpected sweetness," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times.

Matt asked Flickhead to show no mercy in his review: "Sorry to disappoint you, Matt: it's not a bad picture at all."

Sujewa Ekanyake has a good long talk with Matt at Filmmaking for the Poor.

The Reeler notes that the New York Post's VA Musetto is underwhelmed. In a similar vein, Jorge Morales at the Voice.

Matt himself writes, "Home gave me a chance to visually express some of the aesthetic qualities I value as a moviegoer, which I guess makes it a continuation of criticism by other means."

Posted by dwhudson at 3:37 PM

LA Weekly, 3/2.

Well, I've given it time, but the new LA Weekly website, while maybe a tad prettier and certainly a lot more ad-laden, really is tougher to navigate than the old one. Still, the LAW is one of the few remaining alt-weeklies to warrant an occasional entry of its own.

Live Freaky! Die Freaky! "[John] Roecker sure is a romantic about certain things, like art and music, though you might not know it from watching Live Freaky! Die Freaky!, his claymation musical retelling of the Helter Skelter Charlie Manson saga," writes Lina Lecaro in the LA Weekly. "The movie viciously and gleefully rips on religion, homosexuality, hippies, Hollywood, rich people, poor people, drug users and the Beatles. (Now that's blasphemy!) Plus, it's packed with more blood, foul language and weird sex than Tarantino, Lynch and South Park's Parker and Stone's stuff combined. But the guy is really a softy when you get to know him."

Ella Taylor has a personal and irresistibly engaging essay on the evolution of the American family as it is - and isn't - reflected on television and in the movies: "For all the extremity of American film culture these days, we live in singularly bloodless times when it comes to movies about the private sphere, which are dominated by clever, enervated comedies about families falling apart under the weight of their incoherence, their intensity, or just their incessant chatter. Consider The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The Squid and the Whale and The Family Stone."

Reviews: Ernest Hardy on Dave Chappelle's Block Party, Taylor on Joyeux Noël and Scott Foundas on 16 Blocks.

Robert Abele: "CBS's new military series The Unit is not your typical swinging-dick soldier hour." Also, Project Runaway.

Alec Hanley Bemis moderates a discussion between Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem and John Darnielle on the crossbreeding of literature and pop.

Jervey Tervalon remembers Octavia Butler, 1947 - 2006. Related: Ed Champion's conversation and remembrance.

Tom Christie listens to Anthony Hernandez talk about his upcoming show at the Christopher Grimes Gallery, Beverly Hills, 1984.

Posted by dwhudson at 9:06 AM

March 1, 2006

Online viewing tips, 3/1.

Automatic Writing William Kentridge's Automatic Writing at DVblog.

What a day at Screenhead:

Two via Jeffrey Overstreet: The McPassion and Peter Stormare's Volkswagon ad.

Surreal Scania, via Ryan Griffis at Rhizome.

And an offline viewing tip, that is, if you happen to be in one of a few selected cities or have the patience to wait for the DVD. Doug Cummings reviews the Oscar-nominated shorts in the live-action and animated categories.

Posted by dwhudson at 1:08 PM